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On Wednesday, the NFL announced the suspensions of four players who, according to the league, participated in the Saints' bounty hunting scheme. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season. Lesser suspensions were handed down to three other current and former Saints.
On Friday, the NFL Players' Association appealed, citing the terms of the latest collective bargaining agreement, which they say prohibits NFL commissioner Roger Goodell from punishing players for conduct prior to August 4, 2011.
In an interview with Bill Littlefield, ESPN's NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt said he thinks the union's argument is thin.
"The idea that there's 'pre-C.B.A. conduct' is going to be a stretch because what was written in that clause that they talk about - this Article 3 - the NFL will not sue based on what happened before August 4, 2011 when the C.B.A. was put in place, that was really a legal argument," said Brandt, who is a former vice president of the Green Bay Packers. "That was an argument that we're not going file any more lawsuits. This Brady V. NFL is going to go away. We're having a global settlement. The NFLPA is trying to say that should apply to conduct including conduct about bounties."
Brandt says when the NFL issued a statement Friday in response to the appeal, the league pointed out that the NFLPA is not claiming that the players are not-guilty of the accusations.
The NFLPA has not put any facts in dispute, according to the NFL's statement. "They're not saying these players did not intend to injure," Brandt said. "What they're saying is it's a procedural thing."
Brandt says the players' union is in a awkward position because they are advocating for members who were trying to hurt other members.
"[The NFLPA is] representing the hunted and the hunters and what they continue to say is it's not about that," Brandt said. "What they do is try to unite everyone against their common enemy, it would seem, the NFL. Rather than conquer and divide, which they think the NFL is trying to do to them, they're trying to get everyone to fight the NFL's process."
The fallout from New Orleans' pay-for-pain scandal has included suspensions for coaches, players, and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis (who's facing a separate investigation for allegations that he monitored opposing coaches' conversations), but Brandt says the Saints' top concern about the team's future might be their star quarterback.
"Drew Brees is currently without a contract and that's something they should be focusing on, perhaps even more than this bounty situation."
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