Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/4/12

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watches teams warm up prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Special master Stephen Burbank upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to suspend four players the league punished for alleged involvement in the Saints bounty scandal.

Burbank ruled just five days after the NFLPA hearing that the penalties were out of Goodell's CBA-granted authority and should be viewed as salary cap violations and not on-field misconduct. Burbank dismissed the grievance and said appeals should remain in the hands of the commissioner.

The NFLPA plans to appeal the ruling to an Appeals Panel. As defined by the CBA, the panel includes on representative from the NFLPA, NFL and an independent.

"The NFL Players Association will appeal today’s decision to the Appeals Panel provided by the CBA for the review of all system arbitrator decisions," the NFLPA said in a statement. "Any pay-to-injure program runs counter to the health and safety principles we stand for as players. However, none of the players punished in this case have seen a shred of evidence justifying the NFL's punishment.

"In the opinion, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank wrote, 'It is important to emphasize -- with respect to all of the Players -- that nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.'

"The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players."

Burbank did ask Goodell for more precise reasoning behind Hargrove's suspension. He was suspended eight games and league spokesman Greg Aiello alleged Hargrove was found "to have lied to the league's investigators and obstructed their investigation."

The NFL argued the player behavior punishment was appropriate under the guidelines of detrimental conduct outlined by the CBA.

Another grievance by the same four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- is pending with arbitrator Shyam Das. The NFLPA requested Das review whether the CBA agreement in August should prevent Goodell from punishing players for actions occuring prior to the new bargaining agreement.

The grievance also suggests the on-field conduct reviews should be handled by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, who review and hear appeals on such matters during the regular season.

Burbank earlier dismissed a grievance in favor of the NFL in which the Cowboys and Redskins challenged the total of $46 million in salary cap sanctions for violating the basic agreement between owners not to frontload contracts during the uncapped year of 2010.

Das was the arbitrator in the overturned steroids test case involving National League MVP Ryan Braun. He no longer works for Major League Baseball.

Vilma filed a defamation suit against Goodell in Louisiana. Goodell was given until July 5 to respond to the suit. No additional court date has been set.

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