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Vilma appeals bounty suspension

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has formally appealed the year-long suspension he received from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his involvement in the club's bounty program.

Vilma was suspended last Wednesday, hit hardest among the four players who received bans from the commissioner.

Goodell issued the suspension and will also hear the appeal, as stated under the new collective bargaining agreement.

In addition to Vilma, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended eight games, defensive end Will Smith was hit with a four-game ban and linebacker Scott Fujita, now playing for Cleveland, will sit for the first three games of the 2012 campaign.

The NFL Players Association also filed a grievance against the NFL last week on behalf of the suspended players. The NFLPA reportedly wants any appeal to be heard by officers Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who handle appeals of discipline rulings that stem from activity on the field.

All of the suspensions are without pay and stem from the bounty system run from 2009-11 by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely in March. Saints head coach Sean Payton was also suspended for a year for his knowledge of the program.

Vilma's suspension was immediate, keeping him away from the club's training facility, but he can now return to the team's headquarters until the appeal is heard. The other three will begin their penalties at the start of the 2012 regular season.