New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and three other players suspended in the NFL's investigation of the team's cash-for-hits bounty system, challenged their punishments Monday.

Vilma, named by the NFL as a ringleader of the operation, appealed his season-long suspension while the Players Association notified the league it was reserving the appeal rights of Saints defensive end Will Smith and those of ex-Saints Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.

All four players and the union argue that no appeal should be heard before NFLPA grievances are resolved questioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to discipline the players and to hear their appeals.

Vilma received the harshest of the suspensions, followed by Hargrove (eight games) Smith (four games) and Fujita (three games). Monday was their deadline to appeal.

Hargrove's statement describes how he was instructed by ex-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and current New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt to deny the existence of a bounty program to NFL investigators.

The NFL has said that Hargrove's words acknowledge the existence of a bounty program and show that Hargrove initially lied to NFL investigators about it. The union notes that Hargrove's statement does not say that he lied to anyone, nor does it state that he or any other Saints participated in a bounty program.


The Minnesota Vikings released 16-year veteran kicker Ryan Longwell, a little more than a week after the team drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round.

New England's Matt Light, one of a handful of NFL players to have started in five Super Bowls, said he is retiring from the league at the age of 33 to have a chance "to leave this game upright and feeling good."

The offensive lineman is a three-time Pro Bowler.