NFL Reduces Some Suspensions In Bounty Scandal; Vilma Still Must Sit Entire Season
The NFL yesterday “reduced many of the original penalties levied to the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal,” but the concessions are “unlikely to end its ongoing feud with the players, their union and Saints fans,” according to Larry Holder of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Saints LB Jonathan Vilma has been “suspended for the season, but will be paid for his time on the physically-unable-to-perform list.” Saints DE Will Smith was the “only player who received the original penalties” as he is “suspended for four games.” Browns LB Scott Fujita “had his suspension reduced to one game after originally being barred for three games.” Free agent DT Anthony Hargrove's suspension “was reduced to seven games and receives credit for missing the first five weeks of the season” and so would be “suspended for two more weeks.” The four players will be “able to appeal the league's rulings and will have three days from Tuesday to file an appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.” Goodell “wrote letters to each player,” released by the league yesterday, “spelling out his thoughts on why he re-issued the punishments” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/10). USA TODAY’s Jim Corbett reports player appeals of the suspensions “could take weeks to hear, and players could ask a federal judge in Louisiana to revisit their earlier pursuit of an injunction blocking the suspension.” Tulane Univ. Sports Law Program Dir Gabe Feldman: “Essentially, we’re back to square one. … We could still be talking a matter of weeks if not months before this is decided” (USA TODAY, 10/10). NFL Network’s Albert Breer said there is "almost no question this is heading right back to the courts” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/9).
HARD EVIDENCE: In N.Y., Judy Battista reports the NFL for the first time “released the evidence it gathered during its investigation, including handwritten notes of who contributed to the pools and e-mails” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/10). In New Orleans, Mike Triplett writes the league and Goodell “finally deserve some credit for being so detailed and thorough with all of their findings.” Triplett: “For the first time, the league has truly laid all of its cards on the table -- dissecting most of its key testimony from former coaches Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo and current coach Joe Vitt, as well as the rebuttal testimony from suspended players.” That action “should finally put to rest all of those theories about whether the evidence is fabricated, whether witnesses were coerced into their testimony or whether Goodell lacked the authority to discipline players, etc.” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/10).
MAKING A STATEMENT: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes, “Regardless of the league’s sloppy investigation, questionable evidence, legal battles and the tremendous hits on Goodell’s credibility in recent months, the NFL commissioner could not back down now.” Bell: “Sure, penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove were reduced. But in banning Jonathan Vilma for the rest of the season and keeping Will Smith’s four-game suspension intact, Goodell did what he had to do to save face -- and reiterate the statement that the NFL is no place for bounty hunting" (USA TODAY, 10/10). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I thought Roger Goodell would cut the suspensions in half, and he hasn’t done that. He’s basically doubled-down on the same length. ... It's a stronger position that Goodell takes than I thought he would take.” But ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the Saints “are simply not the story now they were five weeks ago” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/9). ESPN’s Herm Edwards said the NFL “gets a break in this sense: no one is really concerned that much about this.” Edwards: "Most of the people right now are focused on football” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 10/9).