Players’ Bounty Suspensions Overturned on Appeal
A three-member appellate panel overturned the suspensions of four NFL players by the league in the 'Bountygate' case against the New Orleans Saints on Friday. The players -— Saints' linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns' linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove — are permitted to play this NFL season as a result of the latest ruling.
In May, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season; Smith for four games; Hargrove for eight games and Fujita for three games for their role in the alleged "pay-to-injure" system. Hargrove was released by the Green Bay Packers on August 24.
The players' first appeal was denied by arbiter Stephen Burbank, who ruled in July that Goodell had the authority to suspend them. Friday's ruling supersedes the earlier adjudications while providing Goodell the capability of re-suspending the accused players should evidence of such conduct be proven to have occurred.
Reports indicate Goodell will attempt to re-institute the suspensions, though not until after Week 1 of the 2012 season.
Suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, assistant coach Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams were not part of Friday's appeal and will remain suspended.