Saints Players Bounty Suspensions Vacated

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has vacated the bounty-related suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith, and Anthony Hargrove, though he has not cleared the players (and especially not the team and coaches) from all wrongdoing.

"Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects," Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league. "My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."

The NFL's response: "We respect Mr. Tagliabue's decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters," the NFL said in a statement. "This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. (Tagliabue) as Commissioner Goodell's designated appeals officer.

"... The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football."

Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, says the linebacker will continue to pursue his defamation lawsuit against the league. "Two competing forces have been at play since at least March of this year -- Roger Goodell has been trying every conceivable maneuver to avoid real and honest scrutiny of his manufactured allegations that Jonathan Vilma engaged in a bounty program aimed at opposing players and Jonathan has been fighting to have an open and fair review of those accusations," Ginsberg said in a statement. "We are obviously relieved and gratified that Jonathan no longer needs to worry about facing an unjustified suspension."

"On the other hand, Commissioner Tagliabue's rationalization of Commissioner Goodell's actions does nothing to rectify the harm done by the baseless allegations lodged against Jonathan. Jonathan has a right and every intention to pursue proving what really occurred and we look forward to returning to a public forum where the true facts can see the light of day. We call upon Commissioner Tagliabue to release the transcripts of the proceedings held before him so that they are available as we go forward. Finally, it is regrettable that the NFL continues unjustifiably to attack the New Orleans Saints, an organization comprised of decent and honest people who continue to stand strong in the face of these baseless attacks."

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18 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2012, 5:37pm

#1 by Bonzer (not verified) // Dec 11, 2012 - 3:14pm

Wow, let the lawsuits begin. I can see Goodell coming back with suspensions for conduct detrimental and the other players firing back with defamation lawsuits.

Points: 0

#2 by snoopy369 // Dec 11, 2012 - 3:18pm

I think the suspensions are done with. Vilma is the only one left with much of a career, anyway; and Goodell has made his point. The lawsuits will probably go away in time as the media stops reporting heavily on them (particularly in 2014 when nobody's left suspended by this).

Points: 0

#3 by Karl Cuba // Dec 11, 2012 - 3:19pm

After inital hearings, various court appeals and extensive scrutiny from a former commissioner the decision has finally been reached that Roger Goodell is clueless and Gregg Williams is a dick.

I could have told them that.

Points: 0

#4 by RickD // Dec 11, 2012 - 3:51pm

Between this process and the Ed Reed suspension/non-suspension, I have to wonder just what kind of authority Goodell has these days. It has seemed for a long time that he simply took as much power as he wanted. But now we're faced with the fact that he's suspended a good number of people who had their suspensions reversed.

Does this make Goodell look ridiculous?

Points: 0

#6 by jds // Dec 11, 2012 - 5:41pm

I think Goodell is secretly happy about this. This is his defense to future player injury lawsuits. "We tried as hard as we could to make playing conditions safe, by issuing fines and suspensions, but courts, the NFLPA, special commissioners, etc. imposed limitations on us." In fact the more the NFLPA is involved, the better this is for Goodell. Sure, from a public perception point of view, he appears to be a bit weaker and not having as firm a grip on power, but in reality he really only cares about the opinion of 32 members of the public.

Points: 0

#7 by Bonzer (not verified) // Dec 11, 2012 - 8:13pm

Given that of the 32 owners, 1 is/was mad about his coaches/GM getting suspended, 2 others are mad for salary cap "violations" for not colluding with the league, 1 other is mad that they got hit with salary cap violations, and a handful are mad that some of their key players were suspended for various reasons this could be a change in how the owners will let the commish run the league.

So even thought it's hard to tell, since the owners don't want to air dirty laundry, but the Redskins, Cowboys, Raiders, Saints, Texans, Steelers, and a few other owners would have a legitimate issue with how Goodell runs the league.

Points: 0

#10 by Independent George // Dec 12, 2012 - 9:42am

To this day I don't understand the cap penalties against Washington & Dallas. Can someone explain to me how you can violate the cap in an uncapped year that isn't a prima facie case of collusion?

Points: 0

#11 by Will Allen // Dec 12, 2012 - 10:30am

I think the argument is that once the NFLPA signed an agreement which contained language that waived the right to take any further legal action regarding any behavior which took place in that time period, it became irrelevant that there was collusion. While I understand the anger at the collusion, I really do think it is more important to uphold the principal that once parties enter a settlemet agreement that states that the legal war is over, period, and a judge or court signs off on that statement, everyone can be confident that no judge or court will ever declare the war reopened. Absent such confidence, parties to lawsuits are going to be a helluva lot less willing to settle, and that would be an extremely bad outcome for our society. If the players found the collusion to be an intolerable offense inflicted upon them, then they should not have entered into a settlement agreement which plainly stated that they would tolerate it.

As to why one Jerrell Jones and one Daniel Snyder are tolerating it, well, those two guys are dummies when it comes to evaluating football players and coaches, but not when it comes to p and l statements. Fighting the league's cap penalties inflicted upon them would merely be an attempt to take money out of their own pocket. Hell, in a moment of honest self-assessment, those two guys might concede that being restricted by an outside entity from tossing millions at defensive tackles and wide receivers with mood disorders serves their financial condition, and even their team's competitive prospects, as well.

Points: 0

#16 by Jerry // Dec 12, 2012 - 8:43pm

Getting the union to sign an agreement that waived their right to sue, presumably with an eye to ending all the litigation around the lockout, and then flaunting the fact that you violated the last CBA by capping what was explicitly an uncapped year, is not the way to engender any trust or cooperation from the Players Association.

Points: 0

#17 by Will Allen // Dec 12, 2012 - 10:29pm

In my experience, cartels are at best infrequent seekers of trust, and often insincere in their efforts to gain cooperation. The fact remains that allowing settlement agreements to be blown up, especially when the parties were well aware of the bad behavior that was engaged in (none of this was news to the NFLPA), would be a precedent whose damage woud far exceed whatever benefit would be gained by punishing the 32 plutocrats who run NFL teams.

The world's a nasty place with ugly compromises, ain't it?

Points: 0

#13 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 12, 2012 - 4:51pm

It's important to understand first what the cap penalties are. They did not get penalized for spending too much money. They got penalized for cutting players in an uncapped year to free up cap money once it came back.

There were other teams that overspent during the uncapped year (I think the Bears handed Julius Peppers like 30 million dollars that year), but there weren't penalized for spending money.

Points: 0

#9 by Independent George // Dec 12, 2012 - 9:42am

To this day I don't understand the cap penalties against Washington & Dallas. Can someone explain to me how you can violate the cap in an uncapped year that isn't a prima facie case of collusion?

Points: 0

#14 by JonFrum // Dec 12, 2012 - 8:05pm

You obviously haven't been paying attention - this has been explained many times. The union signed of on their ability to sue for collusion. Whether there was collusion or not is irrelevant.

Points: 0

#8 by Michael LaRocca (not verified) // Dec 11, 2012 - 9:40pm

Unfortunately, all the time we've heard about this thing have beaten me into snarklessness.

Points: 0

#15 by JonFrum // Dec 12, 2012 - 8:12pm

Please note: the ruling was not that the players didn't do it. The ruling was that before suspending anyone, the Commission should have warned players specifically first in a time-out period. The analogy was made to drug testing, when players were given a year's warning before there were any punishments allowed. So if Goodell had told the league's players when the Saints were first investigated, and later incidents were uncovered, he would have been vindicated.

This goes against the Seinfeld 'George-gets-fired-for-effing-the-cleaning-lady' episode principle. Apparently, you have to remind - not tell - players what they can and cannot do. Bounties were always against NFL rules, but because Goodell didn't make a big show of reminding players, he got slapped down.

Take home message - the Saints had a bounty system. The bounty system was against NFL regulations.

Points: 0

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