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Notes: Roger Goodell recuses himself from bounty case

Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed predecessor Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals of four players suspended in the Saints bounty scandal.

Goodell said Friday he notified Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove, as well as the players’ union, that Tagliabue would be the hearing officer to ‘‘decide the appeals and bring the matter to a prompt and fair conclusion.’’

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The union and the four players had asked Goodell to recuse himself, contending he could not fairly rule. Their second set of appeals will be heard Oct. 30.

Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season and Smith was banned four games for his role in the bounties program. Fujita, now with the Browns, was barred three games, since reduced to one. Hargrove is a free agent whose suspension was reduced from eight games to seven.

‘‘I have held two hearings to date and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.’’

‘‘Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters,’’ he added. ‘‘He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.’’

Tagliabue was NFL commissioner from 1989-2006 and is a lawyer. For part of that time, Goodell was the league’s general counsel.

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Goodell said he consulted with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith before asking Tagliabue to hear these appeals. The collective bargaining agreement with the union that was reached to end the lockout in August 2011 gave Goodell exclusive authority to hear appeals of discipline for conduct detrimental or to appoint someone to hear and decide an appeal.

Goodell periodically has appointed others to hear appeals for club fines, personal conduct suspensions, and for matters concerning drug and steroid policy.

‘‘To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter, nor has he been any part of the process,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings.’’

‘Whistleblower’ claims lie

The former Vikings player identified by the NFL as a ‘‘whistleblower’’ in the Saints bounty case said the league is lying about his statements.

Jimmy Kennedy released a statement Friday saying the NFL called him to ask about a bounty program, and he told them that he did not know anything about it.

Kennedy, a former defensive lineman for Minnesota, said his reputation and character have been ‘‘irreparably damaged by the shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation,’’ by the NFL.

‘‘Roger Goodell identifies me as the ‘whistleblower’ who approached former Viking coach Brad Childress about an alleged bounty on Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game,’’ Kennedy’s statement says. ‘‘That is a lie.’’

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in response that, ‘‘Jimmy Kennedy and Brad Childress were interviewed separately by our office as part of the investigation. We are confident of the accuracy of the information that has been disclosed.’’

49ers rebound

Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers sure have a knack for leaving tough losses behind. They've never lost two games in a row under the reigning NFL Coach of the Year.

Alex Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Delanie Walker late in the third quarter and host San Francisco held off the Seahawks, 13-6, Thursday night to give the 49ers a victory in their long-awaited division opener.

Frank Gore ran for 131 yards and the 49ers (5-2) hung tough on defense late in a game featuring two teams allowing fewer than 16 points per game. Smith went 14 of 23 for 140 yards in a second straight subpar performance.

Walker’s score was San Francisco’s first touchdown in seven quarters after an embarrassing 26-3 loss to the Giants on Sunday in a lopsided rematch of the NFC Championship game.

NFC rushing leader Marshawn Lynch finished with 103 yards for Seattle (4-3).

Fine mess

The NFL fined the Redskins and Bills $20,000 each for violating league procedures on reporting injuries. The injuries involved Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and Bills defensive end Mario Williams. Washington was fined for not properly updating the media on Griffin’s status during the Oct. 7 game against Atlanta after he left with a head injury that turned out to be a mild concussion. Coach Mike Shanahan had described Griffin as being ‘‘shaken up.’’ The Bills failed to list Williams on the injury report while he was being treated for a sprained left wrist . . . Browns starting left guard Jason Pinkston remains hospitalized with a blood clot, which may have caused him to become ill in last week’s win over Cincinnati. Pinkston will not play Sunday against Indianapolis and the Browns do not know when the second-year guard will be released from the hospital or cleared to return . . . Panthers coach Ron Rivera said starting cornerback Chris Gamble will have an MRI on his right shoulder to determine if he has a torn labrum.

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