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Commissioner has to 'specify' why Hargrove suspended

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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An arbitrator temporarily has taken over jurisdiction of Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove's discipline in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal but left open NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to gain it back if he can "specify the nature" of Hargrove's alleged participation in the program. Hargrove (eight-game suspension) and three other current and former Saints players have appealed their suspensions to two different arbitrators. One arbitrator, Special Master Stephen Burbank, issued his ruling this morning. All four players contended that Burbank has jurisdiction because the matter is a salary-cap issue. But Burbank upheld Goodell's jurisdiction over three players -- Jonathan Vilma (one-season suspension), Scott Fujita (three games) and Will Smith (four games) -- and is giving Goodell a chance to retain jurisdiction over Hargrove as well. Burbank in effect said the league did not inform Hargrove precisely why he was suspended. "System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld the commissioner’s authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to impose ‘conduct detrimental’ discipline on players who provided or offered to provide financial incentives to injure opponents,”  the league said in a press release. "He also upheld the commissioner’s authority to impose such discipline against players who obstructed a league investigation.  The System Arbitrator thus confirmed the commissioner’s authority to suspend Mr. Fujita, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vilma.  He invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation.” The NFL Players Association said in a press release it will appeal Burbank's decision to the Appeals Panel, per rules set by the league's collective bargaining agreement. All four players also have had a hearing on a separate appeal that contends the CBA signed last summer prohibits the commissioner from disciplining players for anything that occurred before the new CBA went into effect. The second appeal also asks that, if the commissioner can discipline the players, then Ted Cottrell or Art Shell should review their suspensions, not the commissioner, because the alleged violations were for on-field conduct. The league and union jointly hired Cottrell and Shell to review any appeals for disciplined imposed by Goodell for on-field conduct.    

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