Paul Tagliabue has issued his ruling, per Greg Aiello of NFL PR, in his review of the Saints players’ appeals of the Bounty suspensions, after Roger Goodell recused himself. According to Aiello, Tagliabue affirmed findings of fact regarding Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma, but vacated the punishments imposed.
Tagliabue oversaw a second round of player appeals to the league in connection with the cash-for-hits program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-2011. The players initially opposed his appointment.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma had been given a full-season suspension, while defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove each received shorter suspensions.
Tagliabue cleared Fujita of conduct detrimental to the league.
“I affirm Commissioner Goodell’s factual findings as to the four players. I conclude that Hargrove, Smith and Vilma — but not Fujita — engaged in `conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football,” the ruling said.
“However, for the reasons set forth in this decision, I now vacate all discipline to be imposed upon these players. Although I vacate all suspensions, I fully considered but ultimately rejected reducing the suspensions to fines of varying degrees for Hargrove, Smith and Vilma. 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,” it said.
Vilma said in a text to ESPN that he still intends to pursue his defamation case against Goodell.
“I’m pleased that Paul vacated the suspensions. If (U.S. District) Judge (Ginger) Berrigan allows, I now look forward to pursuing my defamation suit against Roger Goodell.”
In his ruling, Tagliabue agreed there is evidence that suggests Vilma placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre before the Saints faced the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.
When asked about this, Vilma said in a text that Tagliabue “ignores the totality of the situation. Goodell publicly stated I helped create the program and I waved $10k for Kurt Warner. It’s not about just Favre.”
[Information via Associated Press]