After a third-party appeals panel reversed Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend four players in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, Goodell has, four weeks later, only slightly altered his sanctions against Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and unsigned free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove. Once again, Roger Goodell refuses to relinquish his stranglehold on the title of judge, jury and executioner.
Via Pro Football Talk:
“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has altered the suspensions of three of the four players who were disciplined as a result of the league’s investigation into the Saints’ bounty program.
The player who got the best result was Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who already had the shortest suspension and has now had the largest reduction to his suspension: Fujita’s suspension has been reduced from three games to one, the league has announced.
Defensive end Anthony Hargrove’s suspension has been reduced from eight games to seven games. Hargrove, who is currently a free agent, will be credited for having served his suspension during the first five games of this season. If he signs with a team, he will have to serve the final two games of the suspension before he can play for that team.
For Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the entire year, the suspension remains unchanged in the sense that he will not be permitted to play at all this season. But the NFL has altered Vilma’s suspension by allowing him to collect his pay for spending the first six weeks of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The NFL had previously planned to suspend Vilma without pay for all 17 weeks of the season.
Saints defensive end Will Smith was the only player whose suspension wasn’t changed at all: His four-game suspension remains in place.”
The NFLPA, after hearing of Goodell’s decision to essentially uphold Roger Goodell’s ruling on Roger Goodell’s charge against current and former Saints players, decided to unleashed a scathing statement in response:
“For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake.
We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance.”
Goodell’s decision, as well as the NFLPA’s rejection of his decision, should come as no surprise. This, as with all things NFL these days, will probably end in court.