NFLPA asks judge to allow bounty players to return

The NFL Players Association has requested a temporary restraining order that would allow players involved with the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to rejoin their teams for the opening week of the regular season.

If a federal judge accepts the request, affected players other than Jonathan Vilma would be able to rejoin their teams for regular-season openers. Vilma earlier had filed a similar motion.

The motion was filed Tuesday for New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. It contends that the players will suffer irreparable harm if forced to miss games while they wait for their cases to be resolved.

All the players want their suspensions tossed because of what they feel was a disciplinary process.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is hearing the case. She has previously said that she finds the league's handling of the situation unfair to the players and the punishments excessive, but she has also said she isn't yet comfortable that federal courts can rule on a process that was collectively bargained between the union and the league.

The NFL has claimed to have uncovered a scheme in which the Saints ran a bounty program from 2009 through 2011, in which defensive players were paid cash bonuses to for hits that injured opponents.

In addition to the four suspended players, Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the season, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with St. Louis and allegedly administered the bounty, is suspended indefinitely.

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