Former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Wednesday overturned the suspensions of four players caught up in the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal.
Tagliabue did, however, say he had found that three of the four players had been involved in conduct detrimental to the NFL, and that Saints coaches were definitely involved.
Tagliabue had been appointed by present commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the latest appeals of the players regarding the sanctions levied against them. Linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, was the only player cleared of detrimental conduct.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma had been handed a full-season suspension. Fujita, defensive end Will Smith and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who is now a free agent, had received shorter suspensions. None of the players sat out any games due to the suspensions because they appealed the penalties, but Hargrove was released in training camp by the Green Bay Packers, and Fujita is currently on the Browns’ injured reserve list.
In the case, Goodell also suspended former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely for allegedly running the “cash-for-hits” program. Head coach Sean Payton was banned for a full season. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the current season. Assistant coach Joe Vitt, who is currently filling in for Payton, served a six-game suspension.