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Reinstated players could end up suspended again, eventually

Jonathan Vilma Portrait Shoot Getty Images

From a P.R. perspective, Friday’s ruling from an internal appeals panel amounts to a huge win for the Saints and the players suspended as part of the alleged bounty program.  From a legal perspective, the end result could be the same, eventually.

The ruling, made not by a court but as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s internal procedures, sets the process back to square one and requires Commissioner Roger Goodell to impose discipline from scratch, with a requirement that his decisions stay clearly within the confines of his authority.  He has the power to impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the game, but he lacks the power to impose discipline for any salary-cap violations arising from the alleged pay-for-performance/bounty system.

This time, Goodell needs to make it clear that he has remained in his lane.

That’s the import of the ruling.  Nothing more.  The arbitration panel didn’t determine whether there was — or wasn’t — a bounty program or whether the players may — or may not — be disciplined for their participation in the program.

Instead, the panel said it wasn’t clear from the documents generated by the NFL whether Goodell imposed discipline for conduct detrimental to the game (which he has the power to do) or salary-cap violations (which he doesn’t have the power to do).  At this point, then, there’s no reason to think the ultimate outcome will be any different, with Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma suspended for a year, Saints defensive end Will Smith suspended for four games, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita suspended for four games, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove suspended for eight games.

Actually, this gives Goodell and company an opportunity for a Mulligan.  They can go back to square one and re-do the process in a way that will make it more likely to withstand any and all challenges, in court or otherwise.

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53 Responses to “Reinstated players could end up suspended again, eventually”
  1. Steeley McBeam says: Sep 7, 2012 6:24 PM

    Why wasnt anyone listening when Steelers players made this abundantly clear years ago? They were also the only team smart enough to vote against the new CBA for this exact reason.

    Judge. Jury. Executioner.

  2. Nevis says: Sep 7, 2012 6:27 PM

    Which is exactly what I was explaining to Saints fans and I was branded a “hater” for being frank about the process.

    This is more a stay of execution than exoneration.

    The big question is if Goodell will choose to go through the process again.

  3. emmonsh says: Sep 7, 2012 6:29 PM

    They need to tell espn/ they think the players won everything. wasnt hard to figure out and yes vilma will never see a field again.

  4. 2sausage11 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:29 PM

    Cross the T’s dot the I’s and suspend them for 2 years. That will teach them

  5. sdisme says: Sep 7, 2012 6:29 PM

    Should be still required to provide the evidence he relied on.

    And he has a Judge looking over his shoulder.

  6. pigskin28 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:31 PM

    Maybe the commish can increase the suspension for Vilma. For generally being an ass and continuing to act in a manner detrimental to the league during this ordeal.

  7. easyeddie says: Sep 7, 2012 6:33 PM

    Before all the “take that Goodell” and “they’re innocent” noise starts up, don’t forget:
    “The arbitration panel didn’t determine whether there was — or wasn’t — a bounty program or whether the players may — or may not — be disciplined for their participation in the program” and “At this point, then, there’s no reason to think the ultimate outcome will be any different.”

  8. txxxchief says: Sep 7, 2012 6:33 PM

    The players won the venue fight, nothing more.

  9. phonymcringring says: Sep 7, 2012 6:34 PM

    Where the hell did this panel come from and what took them so long?

    Also, please re-suspend all players involved. Everyone knows they’re guilty. Just some don’t want to admit it.

  10. bluefan204 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:36 PM

    Hey Drew! Theres your explanation!

  11. marygratton18 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:36 PM

    Well then, where does the ruling of that Judge Berrigan figure into the eventual outcome if Goodell has a do-over? The problem I have is that Goodell seems to make the rules up as he goes and what insures that doesn’t happen again second time around?

  12. liondriven says: Sep 7, 2012 6:36 PM

    Does the 3 day acclamation rule apply to the reinstated players?

  13. turfdaddy says: Sep 7, 2012 6:36 PM

    Here’s the prediction:
    Vilma–8 games
    Fujita–2 games
    Hargrove–4 games (doesn’t matter right now though, he’s not on a team)
    Smith–2 games

    This allows Goodell to save face, while still penalizing the players that committed the offense.

  14. mikebrownfaux says: Sep 7, 2012 6:37 PM

    I think Goodell should let the guys play, but make it look as if it’s only because of the courts doing so. Win win.. He doesn’t look like he’s inconsistent and wishy washy and the right thing is done in allowing these guys to play.

  15. buffalosaint says: Sep 7, 2012 6:38 PM

    Yeah I’m thinking if he does that he’ll just need to go ahead and triple his security detail for Superbowl week.

  16. caliangel08 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:40 PM

    So in the end the commissioner was wrong about his ability to enforce a penalty on the players ???

    I am sure the owners want more bad publicity for the league .

    Wonder when the owners have their own meeting ??

  17. 1phd says: Sep 7, 2012 6:41 PM

    Unless they realize the bad PR from handing out the exact same sentences. I would guess we get the compromise solution that they were probably offering off the record and previously denied making.

  18. skinsfan91 says: Sep 7, 2012 6:42 PM

    Saints get reinstated just for Redskins game. And league takes Redskins money for two seasons. Awesome!

  19. cwwgk says: Sep 7, 2012 6:44 PM

    Basically a punt by the arbitration panel; and a weak one at that. Goodell said all along the owner was unaware of the program and the bounty money didn’t come from the team. Not sure how the panel got confused over the possibility that the discipline was related to a salary cap violation.

    Regardless, hardly a vindication for the players. Just a reprieve until they receive differently worded suspension letters. Then they can start over with Judge Berrigan.

  20. bdert says: Sep 7, 2012 6:45 PM

    It’s clear why the commissioner sanctioned these players…The panel obviously chose ambiguity as a means of over turning the ruling…It shall be reinstated with no exits.

  21. themph says: Sep 7, 2012 6:45 PM

    Do you think the judge will still make a ruling after this decision today and if she ruled for the players could that delay any decision made by Goodell or force the entire issue into federal court?

  22. bodybagx says: Sep 7, 2012 6:47 PM

    The commish should just cut his losses and let the players be fined under the CBA provisions. Surely he doesn’t want to risk this going to court again, only this time with the threat of a discovery phase.

  23. sfsaintsfan says: Sep 7, 2012 6:49 PM

    No Mike, Goodell has to provide proof of a “pay for injury” program in order to suspend players now, not just say it.

    If Goodell goes ahead and suspends players for a pay for performance program, that is, according to the panel a salary cap violation over which he has no authority to issue suspensions.

    If Goodell wants to continue this fight, he can, but he will lose.

  24. flboyindallas says: Sep 7, 2012 6:50 PM

    You cannot stop Roger Goodell…you can only hope to contain him.

  25. effjohntaylornorelation says: Sep 7, 2012 6:52 PM

    This ruling only directs the league to define why punishment was handed out. Nowhere does it clear the Saints and their filthy players of wrongdoing. I like the fact that the NFL can nails their arses to the wall and teach them to have a little respect for rules and authority!

  26. truthfactory says: Sep 7, 2012 6:54 PM

    The comittee didnt rule there was no bountygate, just that goodell didnt have the power to suspend based on salary cap violations. He can still suspend for conduct detrimental… The saga continues….

  27. jziii says: Sep 7, 2012 6:59 PM

    I ain’t nowhere near as smart as Florio, but this sure sounds like a major screw-up on the league’s part. If the league couldn’t or didn’t think to clarify something that seems to be so basic as jurisdiction (more or less) then you really have to wonder what these clowns are doing.

    And as others have asked here: Why is this decision being handed down now? What took this panel so long to rule on this? Something stinks here.

  28. VonClausewitz says: Sep 7, 2012 7:13 PM

    There’s no way the league wins this. None. It doesn’t matter what the league’s internal policy is, what the CBA says, none of it. Even if everything is written to give Goodell absolute authority, if it got to trial all of this would be moot. Simply, if the evidence isn’t there (and if it is, where is it?) and the league is taking money out of players hands without cause, a federal judge would stop it. Presuming, of course, the judge wasn’t in the pocket of the league. And that seems to be how it’s worked out. So unless the league, and Goodell in particular, wants to have their behavioural failures in big bright lights for everyone to see, they’ll leave this well alone.

    I said all along, Vilma would take this the distance. That is not a fight the league wants. They made a mistake when they tried to scapegoat the wrong guy. Some people actually do fight for what they believe in.

  29. dionoil says: Sep 7, 2012 7:14 PM

    As much as I hate the saints, I haven’t seen any evidence of ‘intent to injure’. Unless they’ve been hiding it all this time, I don’t think they can re-suspend them. On the other hand, they hid this panel all this time.

  30. christopher525 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:14 PM

    Actually, sfsaintsfan, it means that he doesn’t need to focus on the pay portion, instead focus on the safety side. They no longer have to get evidence of pay, just that they were trying to intentionally harm other players. The suspensions will return, in one form or another.

  31. brenenostler says: Sep 7, 2012 7:15 PM

    Nevis says:
    Sep 7, 2012 6:27 PM

    The big question is if Goodell will choose to go through the process again.
    ______________________________

    As commissioner of the league, I don’t think he has a choice. Having the appeals panel lift the suspensions was actually a very smart move by the NFL. This way they can re-do the whole process, and Goodell will make sure he doesn’t cross any boundaries of his authority. So if they players take it to court again, they basically have no case.

    Don’t get too excited Vilma/Brees/Saints’ fans. I would expect Vilma to be suspended at some point, and it’ll probably carry over in 2013.

  32. larryjames836 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:21 PM

    If the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had solid evidences on the New Orleans Saints he should have lay them on the line from the start. You can’t push on a team when they are not the only ones has pay-for-performance program and turn around and lose your head coach, assist. Coach, general manager, and players then 500,000 just was not fair. We know a lot of you people’s not happy with the decision but it is what it is, first know you right then go wit it this is how Vilma felt stand on what you believe.

  33. ravensaintsfan says: Sep 7, 2012 7:29 PM

    Aww look the NFL has sent out its army of shills to defend poor Roger. NFLPA defeated Roger get over it!!

  34. mwindle1973 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:32 PM

    sfsaintsfan says: Sep 7, 2012 6:49 PM

    No Mike, Goodell has to provide proof of a “pay for injury” program in order to suspend players now, not just say it.

    If Goodell goes ahead and suspends players for a pay for performance program, that is, according to the panel a salary cap violation over which he has no authority to issue suspensions.

    If Goodell wants to continue this fight, he can, but he will lose.
    _____________

    No Mike Florio is dead right on this one. I read the official decision myself. That is exactly what it states. All Goodell has to do is layout how the infractions fit under his umbrella. Here’s a little hint as to why he has to prove nothing about injury. Teams are punished for salary cap violations, not players. Because players don’t abide by a cap teams do. If the players provided some or all the money and some or all of the organization then it is not a cap violation, it’s an illegal bounty or pay for performance system or pool whatever you want to call it. The point is it clearly falls under conduct detrimental to the NFL. If I’m wrong and part of this is determined to be a salary cap issue by Goodell. He could choose to issue his punishments again for part of the infractions and then send over to Burbank or whoever the arbitrator is for cap issues? Also this would seem to prove that the court case was prematurely filed, and it could be dismissed now. This is my prediction, the court next will dismiss the case or put it on hiatus of some sort. Goodell will then issue the same suspensions with the correct wording this time. The appeal will be upheld, and the players will either sue again or the case will be reopened, etc. Then we will be right back where we were, in Berrigan’s court room. Where we have already been told by her, that she has no legal way to stop the NFL, at least not one she could find in the last 2 weeks. In the end the players will be suspended, and all these appeals, suits, re-punishing, re-appealing, and re-suing will have been for nothing.

  35. geniusfan says: Sep 7, 2012 7:36 PM

    The Saints team violated the salary cap, that’s against league rules and the team deserves to be punished for that.

    The players participated in a pay to injure program they also deserve to be punished. The players have won a battle on a technicality, the war is not over yet. I don’t care what delusional Saints fans say I’ve read statements from both Greg Williams and Sean Payton that all but confess to this going on. They were contrite and remorseful they accepted their punishment like adults.

    Vilma and his cohorts can say “victory is mine” for the time being, by October my guess is that they will all be on a couch somewhere watching NFL football like all of us.

  36. jeffblast36 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:37 PM

    Can Goodell now add to the suspensions since we are back to square one as has been stated.If so add more time to the suspensions.Time for these players to stop crying to the lawers and the courts and play ball.

  37. stirlingdat says: Sep 7, 2012 7:38 PM

    That will look great when they re-write the suspension letters. Save copies of the old one so we can laugh.

    Especially Fujitas letter where they claim he played for the Saints in 2010 and committed bounties, uh that year he beat the Saints at home playing for the Browns.

    And Vilmas defamation suit? all of asudden ESPN will recall all the video allegations publicly announced prior to him knowing?

    What about the Loomis wire tapping lets see them re-write that one. Goodell will dig a deeper hole and look more corrupt and incompetent.

    They have alot of holes and lies to cover up, it won’t work… We’ll see Payton coaching by the 6th game if not sooner.

    Goodell should let it go, he proved a point he is serious about safety. Teams won’t be thinking of doing any bounty work anytime soon, he was successful in that way!!! just let the guys play.

  38. voyager6 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:42 PM

    Rodger should provide the evidence… to the IRS. I bet that the coaches and players who paid out didn’t send out 1099s or W2s for the money; I’ll bet that at least one of the players didn’t declare it nor pay self employement tax, etc. It was pocketed and spent the way 1000s of NCAA basketball pool money is not declared.

    If, and that is a big if, the IRS moves on this, whether it be jail time or large fines, then Rodger has another incident with zero problems in which he can levy a penalty that is iron clad.

    The IRS won’t care if the money was pay for performance or pay for hurting people. Money is money.

  39. catfish2012 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:56 PM

    Let em back on the field and let the players on other teams get the priviledge of dicipling them and then see how much crying the who dems do…

  40. bmosh99 says: Sep 7, 2012 7:57 PM

    I can’t help but to wonder if the panel that overturned the commissioners suspension had money on the Saints at 16 to 1

  41. justintuckrule says: Sep 7, 2012 8:07 PM

    Hopefully Goodell will be like every other spoiled gazillionaire that doesn’t get his way and keep pressing on. Then, in 7 years when the players finally win their trials, they can personally nail Goodell for huge punitives!

  42. newyorkjetsfan2812 says: Sep 7, 2012 8:12 PM

    Honestly I don’t care how many dislikes I get but giving Vilma a 16 game suspension is unfair idc Roger moat be out of his mind.I.hope he realizes every team does it.

  43. stirlingdat says: Sep 7, 2012 8:19 PM

    It just won’t work… lets say they get suspended again. The players affected will sue the pants off the league to get back the money that was taken from them. Don’t forget Vilma has a defamation suit regardless of any, and separate from bounty suspensions. Fujita played for the Browns according to the date on his letter. The can’t re-write that! They only hurt the coaches and they’re not fighting back, or can’t.

  44. eyeh8goodell says: Sep 7, 2012 8:19 PM

    Conduct detrimental is for off the field issues, not for in-game infractions. And so far, we’ve seen no evidence to support there ever was anything out of the ordinary happening out of that “55,000 pages of evidence”. LOL. Vilma is no dummy, and he won’t back down. Goodell would be smart to take his lumps and move on, because Vilma won’t let up and can make Goodell look much worse.

  45. thejuddstir says: Sep 7, 2012 8:23 PM

    I said it when the news broke earlier today and finally after 6 hrs. Florio gets around to stating the meaning of this ruling which is…….it gives Goodell the opportunity to tie up the loose ends and make the upcoming suspensions even more air tight. As one poster stated it so well, “this is only a stay of execution, not exoneration”. Hopefully Goodell finds a way to add a little extra “sumpin sumpin” to Vilma’s next suspension for everything he’s did to try and give the NFL a bad name. The players would’ve did better with a bogus ruling from judge judy instead of this ruling which just gives Goodell the opportunity to tie up the loose ends that will withstand any legal challenge.

  46. caliangel08 says: Sep 7, 2012 8:34 PM

    “If the players provided some or all the money and some or all of the organization then it is not a cap violation, it’s an illegal bounty or pay for performance system or pool whatever you want to call it.”

    For this statement to be correct , the money had to be paid out of the players pockets , I highly doubt a third party escrow company was employed to distribute funds upon demand . So a bank was probably set up , a kitty or a tin can whatever someone wants to call it , and that was probably maintained by a staff member .

    So if money was taken by the organization and distributed without reporting it , it becomes a cap violation .

    Sounds like the panel is correct and that it is out of Goodell’s hands and he needs to suck it up and move on ….

  47. lostsok says: Sep 7, 2012 8:39 PM

    Vilma should be penalized for two years for Most Immature and Unprofessional Tweet of the Year.

  48. mrlaloosh says: Sep 7, 2012 8:55 PM

    If Goodell has to re-suspend the players with new wording it will Look like he doesn’t know his job. Either way the owners will take a hard look at Goodells actions and their embarrassing of the “Sheild”. You messed up Roger, no two ways about it.
    Your problem now is more public relations than anything else.
    All you “geniuses” can pontificate all you want about right wrong or whatever but, in the end, the NFL is embarrassed by the actions of their commissioner.

  49. gatorfan1 says: Sep 7, 2012 9:07 PM

    Okay let me get this straight…

    Football is a violent sport and getting more violent with the size and speed of the players.

    The NFLPA and former players are suing the NFL for not protecting players enough in the past and lying about the violence in the sport.

    Football players put a bounty out on other players and try to put them out of games and injure them, like Favre in the playoffs. And it would probably take someone like Favre to sue Vilma and the others to see real change BUT of course Favre would be ostracized by all former and present players for violating the “code” of speaking out; BUT these same players would JOIN Favre the next day and sign their names to any suit he bought against the NFL for not protecting players from severe injuries!!!

    I’m no fan of Goodell or the NFL, but I hope this logic can be used against the NFLPA next time in court when the players bitch about the violence in the game that they seem to claim ignorance about; but pay each other to take out other MEMBERS of the same union!!!

  50. silentcount says: Sep 7, 2012 9:39 PM

    If you disregard Goodell’s original accusations as fact, and go only by the valid proof that remains, what are the players guilty of? In a do over, the sworn statements under oath of innocence carry as much weight as anything Goodell has. He can’t bluff his way through this as before, because there are several judges of a higher authority watching. The players are now starting out as innocent until proven guilty which is a novel concept. Goodell can either correct his errors in judgement now, or get even more embarrassed when it goes back to the Louisiana Federal Court.

  51. flipadelphia77777 says: Sep 7, 2012 10:36 PM

    thejuddstir…. Couldn’t have said it better myself

  52. flipadelphia77777 says: Sep 7, 2012 10:36 PM

    thejuddstir….. Couldn’t have said it better myself

  53. mjkelly77 says: Sep 7, 2012 10:47 PM

    mrlaloosh says:Sep 7, 2012 8:55 PM

    If Goodell has to re-suspend the players with new wording it will Look like he doesn’t know his job. Either way the owners will take a hard look at Goodells actions and their embarrassing of the “Sheild”. You messed up Roger, no two ways about it.
    Your problem now is more public relations than anything else.
    All you “geniuses” can pontificate all you want about right wrong or whatever but, in the end, the NFL is embarrassed by the actions of their commissioner.
    _________________

    A legal procedural move is cause for embarrassment? Get real. What the miscreant players did was cause for embarrassment. That’s why they’ll be suspended again by the Commissioner.

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