Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Unclear if reinstated players will see action

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NEW ORLEANS -- While Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Will Smith are now all eligible to play after being reinstated by the NFL, it's still unclear if any will see action today.

The suspensions of the players, plus unsigned free agent Anthony Hargrove, for their roles in New Orleans' pay-for-pain bounty scandal were lifted Friday by a three-member appeals panel and all were reinstated by the league.

The Saints announced Saturday that Smith has been activated from reserve/suspended list. The team placed LB Vilma on Exempt -- Commissioner Permission. The roster move is an indicator that Vilma won't play in New Orleans' season-opener against Washington.

The 30-year-old Vilma -- who had been hit with a season-long suspension -- has not attended a Saints' team meeting or practice since training camp started.

Smith, 31, will be a game-time decision.

The Saints likely have decided what they will do with the 6-foot-3, 282-pound defensive end -- who received for four-game suspension -- but probably won't make an announcement until the team is warming up. Smith took part in the majority of training camp and is healthy.

Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer had said this week that if Smith's suspension was lifted he likely would play against the Redskins.

The Cleveland Browns could use Fujita in their game against Philadelphia, but it is still unclear if they activate the 6-5, 250-pound linebacker.

With Chris Gocong out for the season, and his backup rookie James-Michael Johnson out this week (oblique) and Fujita suspended, the Browns were going to have to start rookie L.J. Fort against the Eagles. If they don't activate Fujita, they would go into the game with just two linebackers -- D'Qwell Jackson and Kaluka Maiava -- who have NFL experience.

Fujita stayed in Cleveland this week and practiced at nearby Baldwin Wallace University.

Fujita may not be fully recovered after hurting his leg in the preseason opener against Detroit on Aug. 10. He missed the Browns' final three exhibitions. He returned to practice on Aug. 28, but hasn't had much contact and the Browns may want to rest the 33-year-old despite his suspension being overturned.

Hargrove, docked eight games, was released last month by Green Bay and is not currently with a team.

The appeals panel met in New York last week to hear arguments from the NFLPA.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2012 B12

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