- Associated Press - Monday, June 4, 2012

NEW YORK — An arbitrator ruled Monday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline New Orleans Saints players for their role in a bounty system.

The NFL Players Association challenged Goodell’s power to impose penalties for what the league says was a three-year bounty program that targeted specific players. Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, took only five days to determine that Goodell has the power to punish the players under the collective bargaining agreement reached last August to end the lockout.

Goodell suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012 season and teammate Will Smith for four games. Former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended for eight games, while linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, was docked three games.

Those players have appealed the suspensions. And the players’ union said Monday it expects to appeal Burbank’s decision because it believes salary cap violations are involved in the payment. That would give Burbank the authority to rule on penalizing any players involved.

Burbank did, however, retain temporary jurisdiction on Hargrove’s role and asked Goodell for more information on Hargrove’s “alleged participation.”

Burbank “invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation,” the NFL said in a statement.

Manning looks good making deep throws

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning showed excellent arm strength while airing it out Monday as the Denver Broncos worked on deep throws.

The league’s only four-time MVP is returning from a nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm, forced him to sit out last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts.

In the two practices that the media were allowed to watch, Manning looked good on short and intermediate passes but sometimes lacked strength on the occasional deep ball.

“I will say that when you are throwing deep balls, the idea is to take your shot. It’s not the highest percentage play, but we’re going to keep throwing them,” Manning said.

Around the league

BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay signed first-round pick Doug Martin to a five-year contract. The Boise State running back was the 31st selection. He rushed for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns while averaging more than five yards per carry.

JAGUARS: Wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the fifth pick in the draft, has appeared in an Oklahoma courtroom for the first time since his weekend arrest for suspicion of drunken driving. Police arrested the former Oklahoma State star during a traffic stop in Stillwater early Sunday after a breath test allegedly showed his blood alcohol content to be three times the legal limit.

OFFICIALS: The NFL will start hiring and training possible replacement officials with a deal not yet completed with the NFL Referees Association. Talks between the league and the officials broke down after two mediation sessions that followed nine bargaining negotiations since October.

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