Wednesday, October 10, 2012

NFL re-issues penalties on players involved in the Saints bounty program

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell again issued penalties to players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, after a series of appeals and players questioning the evidence against them. Now, it looks as if Goodell has tweaked the penalties, according to a report Tuesday by USA Today.

If you've been following the developments, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has a pending defamation lawsuit. Vilma was deemed eligible to return to play this season from the injured list, but he is suspended for the season (again). At least Vilma gets to keep six game checks owed to him for being on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Scott Fujita, now a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, is suspended for one game after originally being docked for three games. Anthony Hargrove, a defensive tackle without a team, had his suspension reduced by one game to seven games but receives credit for time served during the five weeks he has been a free agent. If Hargrove is re-signed to a team, he must miss two games. The four-game suspension for Saints defensive end Will Smith is unchanged, according to USA Today.

Why the changes, you ask? Goodell was order to reconsider the punishments after a panel of judges hearing an appeal by the NFL Players Association temporarily lifted the suspensions on Sept. 7. But, they affirmed the commissioner's authority to discipline players for "conduct detrimental to the game."

Before reaching his decision, Goodell met with each of the disciplined players. Here's what he had to say: "In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story. In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for 'cart-offs,' that players were encouraged to 'crank up the John Deere tractor' and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play."

The players can appeal the penalties again or pursue more court action and its unclear if Vilma will revise the legal strategy behind his suit against Goodell. In short, penalties for the non-players suspended because of the scandal were unchanged. Gregg Williams, former defensive coordinator who admitted to the NFL that he started the bounty program, is suspended indefinitely. Saints coach Sean Payton is suspended for the season, general manager Mickey Loomis was banned for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt is in the midst of a six-game suspension. 

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