- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says Saints coach Sean Payton and other New Orleans officials suspended for being involved in the team’s bounty program will have their appeals heard in the next few days.

“I expect we’ll do it before the end of the week,” he said Tuesday at the unveiling of the league’s new Nike-designed uniforms at a film studio in Brooklyn.

Payton, New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt were suspended for their roles in the team’s bounty system, which offered improper cash bonuses for big hits that either knocked opponents out of games or left them needing help off of the field.

Payton was suspended for the upcoming season. Loomis received an eight-game suspension, and Vitt was suspended for six games.


The Saints organization was fined $500,000 and had second-round draft picks this year and next taken away by the league as part of the punishment.

Next to be determined is whether players who were involved in the bounty program will also be disciplined.

Goodell says the NFL met with the Players Association and executive director DeMaurice Smith on Monday to discuss the league’s investigation of the Saints.

“We shared more information with them so they’re up to speed,” he said.

Goodell added that he expected to speak with Smith again as soon as Wednesday.

“I hope to be able to make some decisions soon,” Goodell said.

“I believe in getting as much information as possible,” he said. “We respect the players. This is important because it’s a player safety matter. We think that we need to get some input from them.”

According to the league, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any New Orleans player who sidelined Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during the 2010 NFC championship game. That was one example to league released from its investigation. No other players involved have been publicly identified by the NFL.

Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who was modeling his team’s new uniform at the NFL’s fashion show, called possible player suspensions by the league “ridiculous.”

“We’re players. We’re going out there to make plays. That’s what the game is about,” he said. “You play defense, your job is to tackle.

“They can say they put a bounty out on me when I got knocked out against San Francisco in the playoffs. You can say they put a bounty out on me. Who knows? But they’re just targeting us right now,” he said. “But I’m not faulting the guy that hit me. It’s the nature of the game. That happens.”

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