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Vilma, Hargrove, Smith, Fujita plan appeal and legal battle

Scott Fujita

Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (99) intercepts a pass against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)


The four players suspended today for their role in the Saints’ bounty scandal do not plan to accept their punishment without a fight.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, Saints defensive end Will Smith and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita have all already decided that they will appeal. Vilma is suspended for all of 2012, Hargrove (who left the Saints after the 2010 season) has been suspended for the first eight games of the season, Smith has been suspended for the first four games and Fujita (who left the Saints after the 2009 season) has been suspended for the first three games.

The appeals were widely anticipated, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the players expect to go beyond the usual appeals process within the league office and instead expect to go to federal court.

“Get ready for a massive legal battle on many fronts,” Schefter quoted a source as saying.

The NFL’s announcement of the suspensions said that each player is entitled to appeal the decision within three days, and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel. But all indications are that both the players and their union believe that they’ll be represented by counsel not only in front of Goodell, but also in front of a federal judge. This story is a long way from over.