NEW ORLEANS (CBSSPORTS.COM) – Paul Tagliabue affirmed Roger Goodell’s findings in the Saints bounty case but, in a stunning turn of events, vacated all player discipline handed out to Jonathan Vilma (one year), Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith.
Tagliabue’s bounty ruling (read .PDF form here) was announced by the NFL and the former commissioner, filling in for Goodell after the current commish recused himself from the appeal hearings. Tagliabue decided that while Goodell’s findings were factually accurate, the “entire case” was “contaminated” by the Saints organization.
“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. “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.”
Goodell recused himself from the Saints appeal hearings in October, and the NFLPA originally wanted Tagliabue to recuse himself as well. Tagliabue declined to do so and it’s looking like that worked out pretty well for the players involved.
Does this mean that the bounty scandal is over? It could be, but it’s no guarantee, as Tagliabue’s ruling made it clear that he found Vilma still “guilty” of offering a bounty. Per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Fujita is the only player involved that’s “completely cleared.”
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