NEW YORK — A second arbitrator ruled Friday that commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline Saints players for their roles in a bounty program.
The union argued Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for conduct before the collective bargaining agreement was signed in August. It also didn't want him hearing the appeals.
But arbitrator Shyam Das, like Stephen Burbank on Monday, ruled Goodell never relinquished authority to impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the game even before August and in addition can hear the appeals.
Goodell suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma for all of 2012 and defensive end Will Smith for four games. Defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended for eight games and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, for three. All four players' appeal will be heard by Goodell on June 18.
Meanwhile, the Saints hired a firm run by former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an internal investigation of the team covering allegations ranging from the bounties to wire-tapping during games at the Superdome.
"We have given the Freeh Group complete access to our team and all of the individuals who have been associated with (the allegations)," team spokesman Greg Bensel said in an email.
ESPN has reported that general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches' radio communications from his box during games from 2002-04. The Saints denied the allegation.
Gronkowski top-paid TE: Rob Gronkowski agreed to a six-year, $54 million contract ($18.17 million guaranteed) with the Patriots, the richest contract for a tight end in league history. The 23-year-old is entering his third season and had two left on his contract. Now he's signed through 2019. Last season he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards, and his 17 touchdowns set a league record for tight ends.
Manning's home: New Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is temporary living in the 35,000-square-foot mansion of former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. The current Redskins coach still owns the home, which has an elevator, bowling alley and 3,603-square-foot garage. It was finished in 2009, just after the Broncos fired him. Manning is still looking for a permanent home.
Broncos: Linebacker D.J. Williams appeared to reveal formations when he tweeted a picture of his digital playbook. The Broncos gave the players iPads, and Williams posted the picture while tweeting about learning a new position. The picture was taken down, and the team declined to comment.
Browns: Quarterback Colt McCoy declined to call the Dec. 8 helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison that gave him a concussion dirty. "I'm outside the pocket. I'm trying to make a play," McCoy told the Dan Patrick Show. McCoy did not play again, and Harrison was suspended one game.
Chargers: Running back Ronnie Brown agreed to a one-year deal. Brown, the No. 2 overall pick by Miami in 2005, ran for 136 yards and a touchdown last season as an Eagles backup.
Lions: Defensive lineman Nick Fairley apologized, via Facebook, for his recent arrests, saying they were "inexcusable." Fairley was arrested in Mobile County, Ala., on May 27 after police said he was traveling 100 mph. He was cited for reckless driving, no proof of insurance and an open container. He was arrested April 3 in Mobile, Ala., for possessing marijuana.
Ravens: Linebacker Terrell Suggs will get his entire $4.9 million salary in 2012 regardless of how he tore his right Achilles tendon, owner Steve Bisciotti said. Suggs said he was hurt while running, but several witnesses say he was playing basketball. League rules allow teams not to pay players or reduce their salary for nonfootball injuries. Bisciotti said doing so would not be good for team morale.