Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has affirmed the league's findings regarding the Saints bounty scandal, but has vacated all player suspensions. Makes total sense, right?
Tagliabue's statement, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello:
Unlike 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.
Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell's findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty (on Brett Favre).
Also from Aiello, the league's response:
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 to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.
So, the players were absolutely, positively guilty, and there's a preponderance of evidence that supports this, but the league won't punish them? Mm hmm.
Interestingly, the reasoning cited by Tagliabue in vacating each suspension was unique to each player.
Peter Ginsburg, the attorney for Jonathan Vilma, issued a statement on his client's behalf, stating that, expectedly, Vilma's personal defamation suit against the Ginger Hammer would carry on:
Two competing forces have been at play since at least March of this year – Roger Goodell has been trying every conceivable maneuver to avoid real and honest scrutiny of his manufactured allegations that Jonathan Vilma engaged in a bounty program aimed at opposing players, and Jonathan has been fighting to have an open and fair review of those accusations.
We are obviously relieved and gratified that Jonathan no longer needs to worry about facing an unjustified suspension. On the other hand, Commissioner Tagliabue's rationalization of Commissioner Goodell's actions does nothing to rectify the harm done by the baseless allegations lodged against Jonathan.Jonathan has a right and every intention to pursue proving what really occurred, and we look forward to returning to a public forum where the true facts can see the light of day.
We call upon Commissioner Tagliabue to release the transcripts of the proceedings held before him so that they are available as we go forward. Finally, it is regrettable that the NFL continues unjustifiably to attack the New Orleans Saints, an organization comprised of decent and honest people who continue to stand strong in the face of these baseless attacks.
Mike Tanier says common sense finally prevailed when we least expected it, and he's stunned that the Ginger Hammer's power has finally been curbed.
Peter King sees Scott Fujita as the biggest winner in this decision, with Gregg Williams at the other end of the spectrum.
Updated 3:52pm ET