The three-judge panel’s ruling that halts the suspensions of the four players disciplined for the Saints bounty program doesn’t mean all four of them will be on the field on Sunday.
As Mike Florio noted on the Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network, the Saints do expect defensive end Will Smith, who was suspended four games, to play in Sunday’s game — even though he hasn’t practiced all week, as the Saints were preparing to open the season against the Redskins without him. But linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the entire season, is not expected to play. Vilma has a knee injury, and multiple reports out of New Orleans say he won’t be ready to go on Sunday.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who was suspended for three games for his role in the bounty program when he played for the Saints, is expected to be on the field in Cleveland on Sunday.
Anthony Hargrove, who was suspended eight games, isn’t even currently on an NFL roster, so he obviously isn’t playing this week. Hargrove was in training camp with the Packers but didn’t make the 53-man roster.
It’s entirely possible that today’s rulings won’t change the number of games each of these players miss: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still may convince the three-judge panel to let him suspend Smith four games and Fujita three games, and Vilma could still be suspended for the rest of the year after sitting out Sunday, while Hargrove may be done in the NFL regardless of this suspension. So while Smith and Fujita will be happy to step on the field Sunday, it remains to be seen whether any suspended player ends up playing in any more games than he would have if the players hadn’t won with today’s ruling.