Union pursues legal remedy


The NFL Players Association has asked a federal judge in New Orleans for a temporary restraining order that would allow players suspended in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation to rejoin their teams in time to play regular-season openers.

The union, which filed the motion Tuesday on behalf of New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, argues the players will suffer irreparable harm if they are forced to miss games while their case against the league proceeds.

Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma had already filed a similar motion when his full-season suspension began earlier. The other three players' suspensions began this week.

The players ultimately want their suspensions thrown out because they argue the disciplinary process was fundamentally flawed and unfair.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is hearing the case, has said she found the league's handling of the bounty matter to be unfair to the players and their punishments excessive, but she has also said she is not yet comfortable that federal courts have jurisdiction to rule on a process that was collectively bargained between the union and the league.

■ DOLPHINS - Quarterback David Garrard was released by Miami, leaving Matt Moore as the veteran backup to rookie starter Ryan Tannehill.

Garrard signed in March and climbed atop the depth chart in training camp before he was sidelined by a left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery Aug. 11. In his absence, Tannehill claimed the starting job for Sunday's opener at Houston.

The release of Garrard was confirmed by his agent, Al Irby. The veteran's $2.25 million salary would have been guaranteed if he was on the roster for the opener. The 34-year-old Garrard returned to practice Monday on a limited basis and said he's not yet 100 percent.

■ 49ERS - Clark Haggans joined San Francisco at practice, pledging to hit the ground running with a team that fits the rugged style he has established throughout a 13-year NFL career.

The veteran outside linebacker, signed by the 49ers on Monday, will learn soon whether he will be available to play in Sunday's season opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Haggans faces discipline by the league after serving jail time in June. He pleaded guilty to DUI charges stemming from an April 2011 incident. His hearing before the NFL is scheduled for today.

The 49ers certainly could use the services of the veteran with 46.5 career sacks when they face the Packers and a prolific passing attack led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

■ PANTHERS - Coach Ron Rivera said he is optimistic running back Jonathan Stewart will play Sunday in Carolina's season opener at Tampa Bay.

Stewart sprained his right ankle in the team's third preseason game Aug. 26 and hasn't practiced since. Rivera said he hopes Stewart will return to practice today, when the team continues this week's game preparation in Bradenton, Fla.

The Panthers flew out of Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday to avoid scheduling conflicts with the Democratic National Convention.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (foot infection) and Jon Beason (hamstring) both participated in practice.

■ BROWNS - Joe Haden's case remains mysterious and unresolved. The cornerback, one of Cleveland's best players, awaits word from the NFL on a possible four-game suspension for failing a drug test.

Browns president Mike Holmgren revealed in a local radio interview that Haden has already had his appeal hearing with the league.

Holmgren told 92.3 The Fan, "Now it's up to someone else. And we don't know."

Holmgren's comments were the first confirming Haden's suspension, which was first reported by espncleveland.com last month. Haden reportedly failed a test for taking Adderall, which is on the league's banned substance list.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email that the league "has nothing to report at this point."

The Browns host Philadelphia on Sunday.

■ STEELERS - Safety Ryan Clark will travel but not play for Pittsburgh on Sunday night, when the Steelers hit the road to face the Broncos to open the 2012 campaign.

Clark, who suffers from sickle cell blood disorder, had to have his spleen removed after the disease was aggravated playing at high elevation in Denver in 2007. He eventually lost 35 pounds and was forced to miss the rest of the season.

The 27-year-old Conley averaged 42.7 yards per punt last season, and tied for third in the NFL by dropping 32 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

■ BILLS - Rookie cornerback Ron Brooks will miss at least eight weeks after being placed on a short-term injured reserve list, and the team also re-signed receiver Ruvell Martin.

Brooks, who had surgery to repair a broken foot last week, will be eligible to return this season after being placed on the NFL's newly created IR/designated- for-return list.

Brooks can return to practice in six weeks and could be activated after eight weeks.

■ RAVENS - Baltimore offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie restructured his contract to remain with the team.

At one point during the talks, McKinnie walked away from the table and posted on Twitter that his time with the Ravens was over. His tweet shortly before noon read: "Decision is made! I'm gone!"

But the sides reconvened later, and the 6-foot-8-inch, 360-pound left tackle begrudgingly reworked his contract rather than start to look for another job. He was supposed to receive a $3.2 million base salary in 2012, his second year with the Ravens.

McKinnie signed with Baltimore during the offseason last year and started all 16 games.

■ BENGALS - Cincinnati placed center Kyle Cook on short-term injured reserve while giving him a chance to return later this season if his right ankle heals.

Cook got hurt in the Bengals' final preseason game.

■ PATRIOTS - New England signed running back Lex Hilliard and released offensive lineman Matt Tennant.

The 235-pound Hilliard was released Friday by Minnesota after signing as a free agent in March. He played all 48 games the past three seasons for Miami, rushing 39 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns and catching 26 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns after being drafted in the sixth round by the Dolphins out of Montana.

■ JETS - New York released T.J. Conley, the only punter on its roster, and also cut nose tackle Isaako Aatui, five days before the team's regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Defensive tackle Marcus Dixon also wrote on Twitter that he re-signed with the Jets. The team did not immediately announce that it brought back Dixon, who was cut on Saturday when New York signed Aatui.

The 27-year-old Conley averaged 42.7 yards per punt last season, and tied for third in the NFL by dropping 32 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

■ AP RANKINGS - Green Bay earned five first-place votes from a panel of 12 media members who regularly cover the league, and had 373 points overall in The Associated Press NFL power rankings to edge New England and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

The Patriots got two first-place votes and 367 points, while the Giants were No. 1 on five ballots and totaled 363 points.

 

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