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NFL: Goodell recuses himself from bounty appeals

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from the bounty appeals process of four New Orleans Saints players involved in the scandal, the league announced.

Paul Tagliabue, the NFL's commissioner from 1989-2006, will conduct the hearings for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma Oct. 30, and make a ruling.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive Director of the NFL Players Association, originally broke the news via twitter.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell has the authority to hear appeals regarding conduct or appoint a designee. Goodell had several conversations with Smith before opting to step aside.

"Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters," Goodell said in a statement. "He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.

"To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process. Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue's decisions."

---Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy described NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a liar in response to his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

Kennedy was identified as a "whistleblower" for his role in the league's investigation of the Saints' alleged pay-for-injury system. A memo sent by the league to all NFL teams listed Kennedy as the person who told ex-Vikings coach Brad Childress that the Saints had a bounty on Brett Favre in the 2010 NFC title game.

Kennedy issued a statement Friday in response to that memo:

"The commissioner of the NFL recently distributed a memo to all 32 NFL teams regarding the alleged Saints bounty program that contained blatant lies about me, thereby adding me to the list of men whose reputations and character have been irreparably damaged by the shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation behind this sham proceeding," the statement read. "Roger Goodell identifies me as the 'whistleblower' who approached former Viking coach Brad Childress about an alleged bounty on Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game.

"That is a lie. I had no knowledge about any alleged bounty to reveal to anyone, and I never informed anyone that I did. Contrary to the false information disseminated by the NFL, coach Childress approached me and asked me if I knew anything about such an allegation, and I told him the truth: I did not. I had no knowledge of any such alleged bounty."

Kennedy also insisted that he never discussed a Favre bounty with the NFL.

"Roger Goodell also states that I was interviewed by the NFL about the alleged bounty. That is another lie; I was never interviewed by the NFL, unless the NFL considers two 30-second conversations when I told NFL Security that I had no knowledge of any such allegations 'interviews.' I certainly do not," Kennedy said.

"After the second phone call that I received from NFL, in which I once again told the person that I had absolutely no knowledge of any alleged bounty, I called my agent, who then retained an attorney for me. We informed the NFL Security person that further contact with me should occur through my attorney, and interestingly, we never heard from the NFL again."

The NFL had said former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, suspended in the scandal, told Kennedy about Favre bounty, a charge Kennedy also denies.

"The third lie that Roger Goodell told about me is perhaps the most upsetting because it involves a man for whom I have great respect and affection, Anthony Hargrove," Kennedy said. "The NFL states that Anthony Hargrove told me about the alleged bounty on Brett Favre. That is an utter lie; it simply never happened. I never discussed an alleged bounty with Anthony Hargrove before, during or after the NFC Championship Game. The only discussion I have had with Anthony about the alleged bounty occurred when we recently spoke about the NFL's egregiously flawed and unjust investigation and proceeding.

"I am not one of the players who has been officially disciplined by the NFL as part of this sham, but I now know that I too have been damaged by the NFL's complete disregard for truth and integrity."

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma participated in practice again Friday and appears likely to be activated from the physically unable to perform list in time to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Interim head coach Aaron Kromer said Vilma has made some impressive plays in practice this week, but the decision on whether to play him against the Buccaneers won't be made until Sunday.

"We have to wait until Sunday because there are still a lot of things that we're going through in the gameplan and we don't have it all in yet," Kromer said. "As the week goes on we still continue to see how he feels after each practice. Are there any kind of setbacks? Is there soreness or anything like that that could hold him up as well? It's physically and it's mentally. He definitely would like to play because he's Jon Vilma and that's what he does."

Vilma, who is appealing his season-long suspension levied by commissioner Roger Goodell for his alleged role in the bounty scandal, has been on the physically unable to perform list all season recovering from a knee injury.

Tight end Jimmy Graham is listed as questionable with his ankle injury after taking part in limited practice Friday.

"Jimmy is mentally ready and he is a very tough guy," Kromer said. "Pain doesn't affect him. You saw him playing after he hurt his ankle in the game. Those kinds of things won't affect Jimmy Graham."

---The Seattle Seahawks were once again involved in a game with gambling repercussions, but this time they had no control over the outcome.

In Thursday's loss at San Francisco, 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh declined a two-point safety in the game's final minute of a 13-6 win over Seattle, and took over on downs. His rationale was to avoid possibly giving the Seahawks a chance to get the ball back with an onside kick. By rule, a safety awards two points to the defense and also forces the offensive team to perform a free kick -- punt or kickoff.

"I have never seen that," tweeted longtime Las Vegas bookmaker Jay Kornegay. "Crazy to see that with the cover on the line."

On fourth-and-17 from their four-yard line, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed a pass from his end zone to Ben Obamanu, but it was just short of a first down. But there was also a penalty against Seattle for a chop block in the end zone. If accepted, it would be a safety and give the 49ers two points.

Harbaugh instead asked for a measurement. When it was confirmed that Obamanu was short, the 49ers took over on downs, and opted to win with two kneeldowns.

If Harbaugh accepted the penalty, the Seahawks would have been behind by 11 points, 15-6. They surely would have attempted an onside free kick from their 20. The would need to recover that kick, then collect 11 points in about 40 seconds to manage a tie. A touchdown, two-point PAT, another recovered onside kick and a field goal would tie. A second touchdown would win, but considering they didn't manage one TD in the first 59 minutes of the game, expecting to get two in about 40 seconds would be extremely optimistic.

While such a sudden comeback by Seattle was an unlikely scenario, Harbaugh was still wise to take the guaranteed win. But by declining the safety, San Francisco, an eight-point favorite in some sports books, ended up winning by seven. The extra two points cost anyone betting on the 49ers to cover a spread that ranged from seven to eight points.

John Avello, who runs the race and sports book for the Wynn, described the reaction to ESPN.com as more intense than when replacement referees awarded the Seahawks' Golden Tate with a game-winning touchdown catch.

Worldwide, the shift in bets then was estimated at as little as $150 million and as much as $1 billion.

"This game was just as much of a swing, if not more," Avello said.

Not all bookmakers agreed.

"It seems controversy has been the theme in the NFL this season when it comes to betting and last night once again a call at the end of the game affected the point spread directly," one sports book maker told TSX. "With the spread moving between 7.5 and 8.5 all day [Thursday] the safety would've allowed the Niners to cover winning by 9. However this game was pretty evenly bet so we didn't see as much of a backlash as we did last time Seattle covered on the last play touchdown call against Green Bay. Safety or no safety was not a huge swing for the book either way."

---Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) have been ruled out of Sunday's night's game at the Cincinnati Bengals, leaving Jonathan Dwyer to make his first career start, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dwyer has not been active for the past two games, and has averaged just 2.9 yards on 24 carries this season. The third-year player out of Georgia Tech has 49 career carries for 221 yards (4.5-yard average).

Dwyer played in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, but fell to the sixth round in 2010 despite a prolific career with the Yellow Jackets. His longest carry in 2012 is 11 yards, and his career average would be 3.0 yards per carry without a 76-yard run last season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who injured his right foot in practice Thursday, is expected to be fine to play.

He hurt it while dropping back to pass, and left practice early, limping off the field behind Steelers trainer John Norwig. After it was examined, Roethlisberger emerged barefoot and pronounced himself "fine."

It's the same foot that was broken two years ago.

While the Steelers cannot afford to lose their most valuable player, they've lost enough already and wonder how much more they can sustain and remain in contention.

"We've been around football so much that you see teams that look good on paper, but they lose guys to injuries and don't have the season they wanted," said veteran backup quarterback Byron Leftwich.

"Injuries are part of the game but as much as it's a part of it, we've always done a good job here, the next guy up has always been capable to come in and play at a high level for that guy."

---A doctor dismissed by the Pittsburgh Steelers medical staff five years ago has been indicted for illegally prescribing steroids.

Dr. Richard Rydze, 62, was expected to appear before a federal magistrate Friday. He was let go by the six-time Super Bowl champions in June 2007, after investigators questioned a large purchase of anabolic steroids.

The FBI accuses him of planning to distribute steroids and human growth hormone from September 2007 through March 2011.

---The NFL fined the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins $20,000 each for violating the league's procedures for reporting injury information during Week 5 of the season.

The Bills failed to list defensive end Mario Williams on the injury report for a sprained wrist and the Redskins did not properly update quarterback Robert Griffin's injury status during a television broadcast, according to NFL.com.

Williams publicly commented about how the wrist had been bothering him and limiting his effectiveness Oct. 3. Williams fully practiced after sustaining the injury but should have been listed on the report for a wrist injury in advance of the Oct. 7 game.

Griffin left an Oct. 7 game against the Atlanta Falcons with what turned out to be a concussion, but the Redskins announced that he was "shaken up" and his return was questionable.

Even though it was determined late in the game that Griffin had a concussion and was ruled out, there were no further updates until after the game was over.

The NFL did decide, however, that appropriate medical care for Griffin was never in question and that the team's medical staff acted appropriately and with great care for Griffin's well-being.

---New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow has a trademark on "Tebowing."

The saying, which refers to the prayer-like, end-zone pose that Tebow does after scoring a touchdown, is now owned by Tebow, who won the rights to it in a battle with two fans.

"I know it was something that was cool for me in the past, but it's not something I do as 'Tebowing,' " Tebow said. "It's something I do that's prayer for me and then it got hyped up as Tebowing. So I think (it's) just to control how it's used as well. Make sure it's used in the right way."

According to a report in Newsday noted, Tebow was awarded the trademark Oct. 9. He said he doesn't plan to make money off the trademark, and if sometime down the road he did, the funds would benefit his charitable Foundation.

---New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks took part in practice for the third consecutive day Friday and is listed as probable to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday as he continues to deal with foot and knee issues.

"He's fought through everything. Every day he comes back out and he tells me he feels good about it and so he gets probably half the reps," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "So he's excited and anxious and hopefully it will be consistent; physically, there will be no setbacks.

Nicks said he feels "pretty good now," and a lot better than this time last week preparing for the Giants' cross-country game at San Francisco.

"I wasn't really expecting too much out of that game. I just wanted to go out there and get back." Nicks said. "This week I had a full week of practice so I expect it to be better. Next week will be better. I just want to keep getting better."

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable with his sore foot and did not practice Friday.

"He was a little sore today. We're trying to get him to a point, game day, where he's healthy," Coughlin said.

---Defensive end Robert Mathis will miss the Indianapolis Colts' game on Sunday due to a knee injury, meaning Drake Nevis and Ricardo Mathews will be the starting ends charged with helping contain Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson.

"Yeah, go get after Trent Richardson," offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians said. "You've got a great chance there against a heck of an offensive line. So it's going to be a great challenge for them but it's a team game.

"So whatever the defense needs the offense needs to pick up or special teams has to pick up. I'm more concerned with Josh Cribbs than I am tackling on defense. I think we'll play better defensively than we did last week, especially at home. But we can't give Josh Cribbs anything because he's a game breaker."

Linebacker Pat Angerer is expected to return to the lineup, playing in the base package to help limit his snaps. Cornerback Vontae Davis will also play.

Arians brushed aside speculation that the Browns will open up the passing game more this week.

"I would think that's a real good smoke screen," said Arians. "They're going to come and run the football and see what they can establish. There's no doubt about that. I know (offensive coordinator Brad) Childress will take his shots down the field with those young receivers. We've got to be more than ready for that also."

---Cleveland Browns guard Jason Pinkston is in a Cleveland-area hospital being treated for a blood clot and will miss Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Pinkston became ill during last week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, although coach Pat Shurmur said he didn't know if it was related to the blood clot. He also declined to say where the blood clot is.

"We'll determine through the week if it's going to be an extended period of time, but he won't play this week," said Shurmur, who planned to visit Pinkston in the hospital.

John Greco will start in Pinkston's place against the Colts.

"As a backup, he's been a guy that can play center, guard as well as tackle," Shurmur said. "In this case he's going to play guard."

Running back Trent Richardson practiced again Friday, and is expected to play with a flak jacket protecting his rib cartilage injury on his right side.

Richardson never wants to leave the field, so if the flak jacket protects him from pain he should get the bulk of the carries in Indianapolis.

"I think when he gets in there and gets rolling, a lot of things that tend to hurt until the adrenaline flows kind of go away," Shurmur said. "He's cleared to play and my assumption is that he'll be there Sunday."

---Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is questionable for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers because of a groin strain.

ESPN Dallas reported that Bryant did not practice Friday but he was on the field during the portion that was open to the media.

If Bryant does not play, he would likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Ogletree.

Also, linebacker Anthony Spencer, who has missed the last two games with a pectoral strain but has practiced the last three days, is questionable.

---Tennessee Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is still in a walking boot and is questionable for Sunday's game at the Buffalo Bills.

TitanInsider.com reported Friday that McCarthy's injured ankle will be evaluated Saturday to determine whether he will be able to play.

Also, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder) tackle Mike Otto (knee) practiced Friday and are questionable. Linebacker Patrick Bailey (hand) is probable. Quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder), running back Javon Ringer (knee) and cornerback Tommie Campbell (ankle) have been ruled out.
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