Updated 3:13 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 11
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated all player discipline involving the Saints’ bounty case.
Tagliabue affirmed commissioner Roger Goodell’s finding that Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma “engaged in conduct detrimental.” He also found “more than enough evidence” to support the findings that Vilma offered a bounty on Brett Favre.
On witnesses former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and assistant Mike Cerullo, Tagliabue said, “neither was shown to be not credible on the specific issue of whether Vilma offered a bounty on Favre.”
Vilma will continue to pursue his defamation lawsuit against Goodell and the league, his lawyer Peter Ginsberg told NFL Network’s Albert Breer.
Tagliabue, however, explained how those in the Saints’ organization kept him from affirming discipline for the players.
“Unlike the Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. .. 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.”
The former commissioner also cleared Browns LB Scott Fujita of any wrongdoing.
The league released the following statement on Tagliabue’s ruling:
“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”
Here is the NFLPA's statement on the ruling:
"We believe that when a fair due process takes place, a fair outcome is the result. We are pleased that Paul Tagliabue, as the appointed hearings officer, agreed with the NFL Players Association that previously issued discipline was inappropriate in the matter of the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program. Vacating all discipline affirms the players’ unwavering position that all allegations the League made about their alleged “intent-to-injure” were utterly and completely false. We are happy for our members."