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NFL Roundup: Concern expressed over Tagliabue in bounty case, Vilma activated

The SportsXchange

The attorney for one of the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty program expressed some concern about former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruling over the matter.

The accused players got their wish when Commissioner Roger Goodell recused himself from the bounty appeals process Friday.

But Peter Ginsberg, the attorney for player Johnathan Vilma, said there is no guarantee the players will be satisfied with the process under Tagliabue.

"Any time we move towards a fair evaluation of the evidence it is a positive development," Ginsberg said on NFL.com. "Commissioner Goodell's belated recognition that he cannot possibly serve as an impartial and unbiased arbitrator is certainly a positive development. And we have enormous respect for Paul Tagliabue.

"Having said that, we now need to learn whether Commissioner Tagliabue plans to provide to us the fundamental rights that Commissioner Goodell ignored, including the right to examine the accusers and to see the evidence, and also we need to consider that Commissioner Tagliabue is counsel to the law firm representing Commissioner Goodell in Jonathan's defamation lawsuit, as well as representing the NFL in Jonathan's challenge to the entire process in this matter."

Tagliabue was the league's commissioner from 1989-2006. He will conduct the hearings for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Vilma on Oct. 30, and then make a ruling on the players' appeals to have their suspensions lifted.

The NFL Players Association made reference to an ESPN segment from 1996 titled "Smash for Cash," in a court filing Thursday, according to NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk. The 7-minute video includes interviews with several players and coaches about a program in which players paid each other for certain hits.

"We have guys get interceptions, fumbles. I came out with like nine thousand and some dollars I had to pay out, because I was paying $500 each big play," Hall of Fame defensive lineman Reggie White said in the video.

A league spokesman in 1996 said the 'Smash for Cash' program was within the rules as long as players used their own money, the amounts were not exorbitant, and the payments were not for illegal hits.

The more recent program accuses the Saints of running an illegal system of paying players to intentionally injury opponents.

---New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was activated for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN.com reported Saturday.

Vilma, who has been recovering from a knee injury, is expected to play between 20 and 30 snaps.

Vilma's one-year suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty program -- which is under appeal -- will be decided Oct. 30.

He returned to practice Wednesday after being taken off the physically-unable-to-perform list, but did not work with the first-team defense.

Also, tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday's game.

---Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was activated for Sunday's game at the Houston Texans, the team reported Saturday.

Suggs returned to practice Wednesday after recovering from a partially torn Achilles' tendon he sustained in April. He had surgery and several months of rehab.

The Ravens had not planned on bringing Suggs back until November but their defense has thinned out with cornerback Lardarius Webb suffering a season-ending knee injury last week and inside linebacker Ray Lewis is out for year with a torn triceps.

To make room for Suggs, the Ravens cut linebacker Sergio Kindle.

Suggs led the Ravens with 14 sacks last season.

---The NFL is looking into comments Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed recently made about having an injury that has not been reported by the team.

Reed told the Baltimore Sun that he has been playing with a torn labrum but the injury has not been listed on the Ravens' injury report. Coach John Harbaugh said Friday that 25 to 30 players each week have minor injuries they practice and play through, according to NFL.com.

"I don't know why it doesn't go on (the injury report)," Reed said. "I'm sure a lot of guys have been through this league and had injuries and it's not reported. That's the physical part of the game and a part of the game that the fans and y'all don't (know) anything about. That's the part that we have to deal with from a workers' compensation situation, so to say. That's stuff that will be taken care of.

"I'm physically all right, but it is what it is on that."

The Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins were each fined $20,000 Friday for not following the league's procedures for reporting injuries.

---Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is expected to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, despite being listed as questionable because of a groin injury.

A team source told NFL.com Saturday that Bryant will test out the injury before the game and will start unless there is a setback.
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