The players’ union and the four players suspended in the Saints’ bounties case filed motions Wednesday to have former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue removed from hearing their appeals.
They asked in US District Court in New Orleans that Tagliabue recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, and also asked for a neutral arbitrator to be appointed by the court.
The NFL said it would oppose Tagliabue stepping aside.
Commissioner Roger Goodell removed himself from hearing this set of appeals and appointed his predecessor last week. But the players and their union contend Tagliabue should be disqualified because of his employment by a law firm that has handled bounty-related matters for the league and represented Goodell in Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against him.
The hearings are scheduled for next Tuesday, subject to any court rulings.
The players association has concerns about ‘‘ethical and legal’’ issues involving Tagliabue hearing appeals by Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
The union also contends that such ‘‘pay-for programs’’ existed when Tagliabue was commissioner, with his knowledge.
‘‘We have advised the union that we believe there is no basis on which former Commissioner Tagliabue should recuse himself and we will oppose any request that he do so,’’ NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email. ‘‘The appointment is consistent with the CBA and past practice, and there is no question that Commissioner Tagliabue is fully qualified to hear these appeals.’’
Also Wednesday, Jeremy Shockey said he was not the whistle-blower in the bounty case, and that Warren Sapp’s accusation that he was has made it difficult for him to go back to New Orleans. Appearing on Showtime’s ‘‘Inside The NFL,’’ Shockey said about being ‘‘a snitch’’ that ‘‘I would never do anything like that.’’ He adds he spoke with Saints coach Sean Payton about it and Payton said, ‘‘Jeremy, just let it go.’’
Lee’s season over
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season with ligament damage in his right big toe, an injury that will require surgery. Coach Jason Garrett said an MRI showed the extent of the damage and the team’s leading tackler and on-the-field defensive coordinator was placed on injured reserve. He will have surgery in about a week. Lee was injured in the second half of last weekend’s 19-14 win against Carolina . . . Bills’ high-priced defensive end Mario Williams had what the team called ‘‘a procedure’’ to relieve discomfort in his injured left wrist but will not miss any games . . . Panthers three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason was placed on injured reserve with knee and shoulder issues. He will have surgery next week on his left knee. Coach Ron Rivera said former Boston College star Luke Kuechly, the team’s first-round draft pick, will continue to fill in at middle linebacker.
End of streak?
London Fletcher’s 15-season, never-missed-a-game streak appears in jeopardy because of a sore hamstring and a balance problem that had him scheduled to see a pair of doctors. The Redskins linebacker attended practice but did not participate. He limped off the field wearing a baseball cap, telling reporters ‘‘I did what I could’’ before leaving for appointments with team doctors . . . Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin will miss Sunday’s game at Detroit with a high ankle sprain . . . The Lions signed wide receiver Brian Robiskie to replace wide receiver Nate Burleson (broken right leg), who was placed on injured reserve . . . Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis (sprained right ankle) practiced and could play this weekend against Oakland for the first time since Week 3 . . . The Titans signed veteran linebacker Xavier Adibi to the roster and placed linebacker Zac Diles (broken right leg) on injured reserve. Adibi played four games with Minnesota last season and was with Chicago in training camp this year.
Jets coach Rex Ryan is still bothered by the comments made by Dolphins running back Reggie Bush a few weeks ago that Darrelle Revis’s season-ending knee injury was a case of ‘‘what goes around comes around.’’ ‘‘I apologized for my comment,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘I expect him to do the same.’’ Ryan drew the ire of the Dolphins star when the coach said the Jets were going to put ‘‘hot sauce’’ — saying he meant lots of attention, not an intent to injure — on Bush before New York’s 23-20 overtime win last month. Bush hurt his left knee in the game on a hit by LaRon Landry, and later implied it was karma that Revis also hurt his knee and was lost for the season . . . Officials will use pink penalty flags for the Dolphins-Jets game after a New Jersey 11-year-old wrote Goodell with the suggestion. The pink flags show support for breast cancer awareness . . . Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams was sentenced to 30 days under home arrest by a Denver judge for driving under the influence. He will start serving the sentence until Feb. 7. Prosecutors had asked that Williams serve a month behind bars.