Bounty appeal hearing ends prematurely

Suspended players doubt they can get a fair hearing

Author: The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jun 18 2012 01:40:18 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 18 2012 05:17:21 PM EDT

The players suspended for alleged ties to the Saints' bounty scandal got their day in front of Commissioner Roger Goodell, but it didn't last long.

Goodell began a hearing in New York with Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, but within 40 minutes pushed back the appeal hearing for the four players suspended by the NFL for alleged active participation in the Saints' bounty case Monday because the players hadn't been allowed 72 hours to review evidence.

The hearing began at 11 p.m. ET but approximately 45 minutes later, Goodell requested the session end to reconvene later Monday.

Vilma and his attorney, Peter Ginsberg, left Monday's appeal hearing and will not return.

Ginsberg declined to meet later Monday and said the hearing was "a sham."

"Roger Goodell has taken three months to tarnish what I've built over eight years of my career," Vilma told Newsday on Monday. "It's tough to swallow knowing that no matter where I go, I'll forever be linked to a bountygate that's simply not true."

The NFL handed over select evidence Friday, adhering to the required three days notice of evidence before Monday's appeal. But the letter of the rule is interpreted by the players as 72 hours before any hearing, and evidence wasn't turned over until Friday night by the NFL.

Vilma, talking to reporters leaving NFL offices, said he doubts he can get a fair hearing in the matter, calling Goodell "judge, jury and executioner."

It is not known what additional evidence linked Vilma to the bounty scandal. He was suspended for the 2012 season and the three other players suspended, Hargrove, Smith and Fujita, left the appeal hearing about 15 minutes after Vilma and Ginsberg.

CBS Sports reported 16 exhibits were entered as evidence against the players, including email messages and handwritten notes detailing bounty amounts. One allegedly titled "QB out pool," listed interim head coach Joe Vitt as a $5,000 contributor.