More legal moves made in Saints' bounty case

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More legal moves made in Saints' bounty case

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of three players suspended in connection with the bounty investigation, calling Commissioner Roger Goodell "incurably and evidently biased." The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove on Thursday in federal court in New Orleans, highlighted a flurry of legal activity surrounding the punishment of four players for what the NFL says was their roles in a program that paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is suing separately in the same court, asked a judge to overturn his suspension while also requesting a temporary restraining order and injunction that would allow the linebacker to quickly return to work and keep working while his case is pending. Goodell, meanwhile, filed a motion to dismiss defamation claims that Vilma made in his initial lawsuit against the commissioner in May. The motion, which was expected, states that Vilma is barred from making such claims by the dispute resolution process outlined in the NFL's labor agreement, which also includes a provision barring lawsuits by players against the NFL. But Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsburg, said the defamation claims focus "exclusively on statements Mr. Goodell has made publicly and outside the confines of the CBA." "Mr. Goodell cannot escape responsibility for those public statements based on an argument that statements in a different forum and in a different context might have avoided judicial scrutiny," Ginsberg said in an email. "Having the title of Commissioner' does not provide Mr. Goodell with a license to make the accusations and allegations he has made against Jonathan in public forums without facing the same scrutiny as other citizens." The Saints linebacker, whose suspension is effective immediately, wants the injunction so he may resume rehabilitating his left knee injury at Saints headquarters. Vilma is suspended for a season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith four and Fujita three. Vilma and Smith still play for New Orleans, while Hargrove is with Green Bay and Fujita with Cleveland. The NFLPA lawsuit said Goodell violated the league's labor agreement by showing he had pre-determined the guilt of players punished in the bounty probe before serving as the arbitrator for their June 18 appeal hearing. Two days ago, Goodell denied the players' appeals, and now the NFLPA is asking a judge to set aside earlier arbitration rulings and order a new arbitrator to preside over the matter. The NFL responded that the action is an "improper attempt to litigate" and said there is "no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining." "These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press. The NFL has said it found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran a bounty program that paid improper cash bonuses for injuring opponents. Saints had coach Sean Payton has been suspended the entire 2012 season for failing to put a stop to it, while general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended half a season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games. Williams, now with St. Louis, is suspended indefinitely and, according to the NFL, cooperating with the investigation. The players, however, have claimed they never sought or accepted rewards for injuring opponents. Fujita has said the NFL grossly mischaracterized what was an informal accountability program for teammates to reward one another for big plays such as sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions, something players on many teams have taken part in for years. Several current Saints defensive players who have not been punished, including safety Roman Harper and linebacker Scott Shanle, have publicly defended their current and former teammates, denying that any Saints player sought to do anything more than what they were already paid to do -- deliver clean hits as hard as they could. Some players have also suggested that Goodell's bounty punishments are part of an agenda to make the league look tough on player-safety matters in order to mitigate exposure to lawsuits filed by numerous retired NFL players who claim the league failed to educate them about or prepare them for many of the long-term physical ailments, including brain disease, that a pro football career can cause. "A seminal question for this court is whether the NFL collective bargaining agreement ... granted the commissioner, when serving as an arbitrator, the authority to disregard the essence of the parties' agreement, to conduct proceedings that are fundamentally unfair, and to act with evident bias and without jurisdiction," the lawsuit states. "The answer, under governing case law, is clearly no.' "The investigation and arbitration process that the Commissioner's public relations machinery touted as thorough and fair' has, in reality, been a sham," the lawsuit stated. The lawsuit said the NFL violated the labor agreement by refusing to provide players with access to "critical documents or witnesses, or anything resembling the fairness mandated by the CBA and governing industrial due process law." The suit also states that Goodell "launched a public campaign defending the punishments he intended to arbitrate, rendering him incurably and evidently biased." The NFLPA also reiterated a claim that the CBA requires much of the "pay-for-performance" conduct outlined in the NFL's bounty investigation to be handled by a system arbitrator and not the commissioner, who has "improperly usurped" control over that process. The NFL has argued that the bounty matter falls under conduct detrimental to the league, which the commissioner has authority to punish. Two arbitration rulings so far have ruled in the NFL's favor on that matter, but the NFLPA lawsuit says the NFL's handling of the bounty matter amounts to a "rare case" in which the arbitrators' previous rulings should be set aside. The union contends one arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, based his ruling on a statement that he saw his jurisdiction covering only improper payments made to players, but not the payments the NFL has said players made into the bounty pool. "This distinction cannot be justified by the CBA, nor can it override the fact that the NFLPA has never agreed to arbitrate these types of disputes before the Commissioner," the lawsuit said. Included with the 55-page lawsuit are 400 pages of exhibits, including about 200 pages of evidence that the NFL presented at the appeal hearing. The lawsuit notes that those documents represent a "sparse" sampling of the 18,000 documents totaling about 50,000 pages that the league said it compiled during its investigation. One exhibit is a sworn declaration from Duke Naipohn, a fatigue risk management specialist who was working closely with the Saints defense throughout the 2011 season. Naipohn said he attended most defensive meetings and never saw bounties placed on opposing players or saw Saints players rewarded for injuring opponents.

Ravens take pass rusher Correa with second-round pick

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Ravens take pass rusher Correa with second-round pick

The Ravens took outside linebacker Kamalei Correa from Boise St. with pick No. 42 in the draft, a player they believe will strengthen their pass rush. Correa had 20 career sacks at Boise St., and he will be given a chance to make an impact right away. 

Getting a pass rusher was a priority for the Ravens in this draft. With Terrell Suggs coming off Achilles surgery and Elvis Dumervil now 32 years old, the Ravens need to create pressure on quarterbacks from other sources. Both Suggs and Dumervil can be mentors for Correa, a high-energy player who the Ravens’ decision-makers were impressed with after meeting with him at the combine. Even if Correa’s technique is raw, the Ravens hope he can contribute as a situational pass rusher. 

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to join the Ravens,” Correa said during a conference call. “There’s nothing bad to say about them. There’s no words to say how excited I am to play for them.”

RELATED: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, MOVE FROM NO. 36, TO NO. 38, TO NO. 42

Cowboys roll the dice, select linebacker Jaylon Smith in 2nd round

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Cowboys roll the dice, select linebacker Jaylon Smith in 2nd round

And we thought the Cowboys were taking a chance with their first-round pick. They really rolled the dice tonight.

After taking a running back in the first round last night the Cowboys took a player who won’t play in 2016 with their second-round pick.

Last night it was Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth pick in the draft, generally considered to be way too high to draft a running back. Tonight it was Jaylon Smith, the Notre Dame linebacker who won’t play in 2016.

Smith was on his way to being a top-10 pick in the draft until he suffered a serious knee injury in the Fighting Irish’s bowl game. He was diagnosed with nerve damage as a result of the injury. That scared teams off until the Cowboys took him with the 34th overall pick in the draft.

If he can play in 2017 he could be quite a boost to the Dallas defense. Smith was an excellent all-around defender at Notre Dame and he could give the Redskins problems in both the running and passing game.

But if there is a lingering issue with the knee, Smith could either not play or have the quality of his play diminished. That’s a gamble that the Cowboys are willing to take.

One reason that the Cowboys may be confident in their wager is that the doctor who performed the surgery on Smith is one of their team physicians so they may have had better information than most of the other teams out there.

RELATED: NEW REDSKINS WR DOCTSON PROVIDES UPDATE ON HIS SURGICALLY REPAIRED WRIST

Ravens trade down twice, move from No. 36, to No. 38, to No. 42

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Ravens trade down twice, move from No. 36, to No. 38, to No. 42

The Ravens started Round 2 of the draft by trading down – twice. First of the Ravens dealt with the Jaguars, trading down two spots. In exchange for giving the Jaguars the 36th pick in the draft, the Ravens received the 38th and 146th pick from the Jaguars.

Then the Ravens traded down from No. 38 to No. 42.  In exchange for sending the 38th pick to the Dolphins, the Ravens received picks No. 42 and 107 (fourth round) from the Dolphins.

Moving up two spots with the pick they got from the Ravens, the Jaguars took UCLA linebacker Miles Jack, finally ending his freefall. Jack was expected to be a top-10 pick until concern grew about the state of his surgically-repaired knee. If Jack has a long, successful NFL career, the Ravens could regret passing on a player who could have fit nicely in their defense. However, the Ravens didn’t feel they could take the risk on Jack, especially after wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed his entire rookie season last year with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, moving down from No. 36 to No. 42 meant the Ravens were confident they could still get a player they coveted, while getting the extra picks from Jaguars and Dolphins.

RELATED: RONNIE STANLEY COULD BEGIN RAVENS CAREER AT GUARD INSTEAD OF TACKLE