The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of three players suspended in connection with the bounty investigation, calling Commissioner Roger Goodell ''incurably and evidently biased.''
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove on Thursday in federal court in New Orleans, highlighted a flurry of legal activity surrounding the punishment of four players for what the NFL says was their roles in a program that paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents.
Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is suing separately in the same court, asked a judge to overturn his suspension while also requesting a temporary restraining order and injunction that would allow the linebacker to quickly return to work and keep working while his case is pending.
Goodell, meanwhile, filed a motion to dismiss defamation claims that Vilma made in his initial lawsuit against the commissioner in May. The motion, which was expected, states that Vilma is barred from making such claims by the dispute resolution process outlined in the NFL's labor agreement, which also includes a provision barring lawsuits by players against the NFL.
But Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsburg, said the defamation claims focus ''exclusively on statements Mr. Goodell has made publicly and outside the confines of the CBA.''
''Mr. Goodell cannot escape responsibility for those public statements based on an argument that statements in a different forum and in a different context might have avoided judicial scrutiny,'' Ginsberg said in an email. ''Having the title of `Commissioner' does not provide Mr. Goodell with a license to make the accusations and allegations he has made against Jonathan in public forums without facing the same scrutiny as other citizens.''
The Saints linebacker, whose suspension is effective immediately, wants the injunction so he may resume rehabilitating his left knee injury at Saints headquarters.