The players’ union and the four players suspended in the Saints’ bounties case filed motions Wednesday to have former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue removed from hearing their appeals.
They asked in U.S. District Court in New Orleans that Tagliabue recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, and also asked for a neutral arbitrator to be appointed by the court.
The NFL said it would oppose Tagliabue stepping aside.
Commissioner Roger Goodell removed himself from hearing this set of appeals and appointed his predecessor last week.
But the players and their union contend Tagliabue should be disqualified because of his employment by a law firm that has handled bounty-related matters for the league and represented Goodell in Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against him.
The hearings are scheduled for next Tuesday, subject to any court rulings.
The players association has concerns about “ethical and legal” issues involving Tagliabue hearing appeals by Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free- agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
Fujita, meanwhile, will be placed on injured reserve later this week by Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season. His suspension originally was three games, then was reduced to one by Goodell after a first set of player appeals.