NFLPA begins legal challenges

Appeals of player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program haven’t been filed yet, but the NFL Players Association has gone ahead and started the legal ball rolling.

The union filed a grievance with the NFL’s vice president of labor arbitration and litigation, Buckley Brooks. The NFLPA also has asked for system arbitration.

The filings claim that the punishments “violated the (league’s) duty of fairness to the players.” The union also claims various procedural requirements of the collective-bargaining agreement were violated, including the limits of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s authority, and a failure to disclose sufficient evidence.

The league has said all along that the ultimate decision on any discipline rested with Goodell.

The union also claims that a big chunk of the three-year bounty program doesn’t even qualify for discipline. The union says that part of the collective-bargaining agreement, signed last summer, stipulated that the league agreed to overlook any conduct matters from prior to the agreement.

Much of the specific evidence cited in the announcement of the punishments was related to games in the playoffs at the end of the 2009 Super Bowl season.

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, and linebacker Will Smith will be suspended for the first four games. Former New Orleans defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, drew an eight-game suspension, and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, will be suspended for the first three games.