- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected the appeals of four players suspended in connection with the league’s bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, Goodell told Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita that he retains “the inherent authority to reduce a suspension should facts be brought to my attention warranting the exercise of that discretion.

“The record confirms that each of you was given multiple chances to meet with me to present your side of the story,” Goodell said. “You are each still welcome to do so.”

Vilma is suspended for the 2012 season, while Smith will miss four games. Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended eight games, while Fujita, now with Cleveland, was suspended three games.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement saying it will continue to pursue all options.

Arbitrator sides with Brees in contract dispute

NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees gained additional leverage in his protracted contract talks with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday when an arbitrator in Philadelphia ruled in Brees’ favor in a dispute over how much the Saints would have to pay the star quarterback if they applied the franchise tag to him again in 2013.

The Saints already have used the tag on Brees for 2012, meaning he can’t negotiate with another team and could be forced to settle for a one-year, $16.3 million deal if he cannot reach a new long-term deal by a July 16 deadline specified in the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

System arbitrator Stephen Burbank’s ruling Tuesday said if New Orleans tries to tag Brees a second year in a row, he would be entitled to a 44 percent raise to about $23.5 million because it would be his third-career franchise tag.

Around the league

BUCCANEERS:Tampa Bay cornerback Eric Wright was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday for investigation of driving under the influence after police said he was involved in a crash near Staples Center.

The incident occurred about 12:20 a.m. PDT several blocks away from the Staples Center when the Mercedes SLS that Wright, 26, was driving rear-ended a pickup truck. The driver of the truck had unspecified injuries, and Wright wasn’t injured.

A five-year veteran, Wright, 26, signed with the Buccaneers this offseason after playing in Detroit last year. He had four interceptions and 16 passes defended in 2011.

BROWNS: Cleveland defensive tackle Kiante Tripp is in a Georgia jail on a burglary charge. Tripp was arrested with two others Sunday afternoon at an apartment in the Atlanta suburb of College Park. Tripp, 24, attended the University of Georgia and was on the Browns’ active roster for three games last season.

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