The bad news for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is that Special Master Stephen Burbank has indeed scrapped their grievances aimed at nudging the bounty discipline process from Commissioner Roger Goodell and toward Burbank.
The good news (if there is any) for Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove is that Burbank has retained jurisdiction, so that Goodell can “specify the nature” of Hargrove’s alleged participation in the bounty program. “If receipt of (or agreement to accept) payments from the pool plays any part in the revised decision (or decision on apeall), the NFLPA may return to seek relief,” Burbank writes in the nine-page decision, a copy of which PFT has obtained.
That likely won’t happen, as evidenced by the nature of Hargrove’s misconduct, as specified by the league’s statement in response to Burbank’s ruling.
“System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld the commissioner’s authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to impose ‘conduct detrimental’ discipline on players who provided or offered to provide financial incentives to injure opponents,” the league explains. “He also upheld the commissioner’s authority to impose such discipline against players who obstructed a league investigation. The System Arbitrator thus confirmed the commissioner’s authority to suspend Mr. Fujita, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vilma. He invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation.”
So, basically, Goodell will send another letter to Hargrove explaining that he was disciplined for lying to investigators and obstructing their investigation, or the NFL will make that contention clear in the appeals process. Then, Hargrove will have no basis to claim that Burbank’s authority overcomes Goodell’s.