Player suspensions from bounty case vacated

Posted Sept. 07, 2012 @ 5:38 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated 5:38 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 7

A three-member appeals panel vacated the suspensions of the players allegedly involved in the Saints' bounty scandal, Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated first reported.

The case has been remanded back to commissioner Roger Goodell to for "expeditious redetermination" of penalties if there is evidence of an “intent to injure.” Goodell only has the jurisdiction to punish the players if the “intent to injure” can be proved, according to Gabe Feldman of the NFL Network.

The panel stated that the System Arbitrator has jurisdiction to impose penalties on salary-cap issues and Goodell has jurisdiction to impose penalties "for the players' agreement to seek to injure opposing players."

The players affected are Saints LB Jonathan Vilma (suspended one year), Saints DE Will Smith (three games), Browns LB Scott Fujita (four games) and free-agent DE Anthony Hargrove (eight games). Vilma likely would not be available to play Sunday because of a knee injury, but Smith and Fujita are expected to play.

The NFL released the following response to the decision, per Albert Breer of NFL Network: "Consistent with the panel's decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the NFL's pay-for-performance/bounty rule. Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend." League spokesman Greg Aiello told Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune that Goodell would not rule before Sunday's games.

The NFLPA's statement is as follows: "We are pleased that the appeals panel ruled unanimously to lift the players' suspensions immediately. We will continue to vigorously protect the rights of all players."