Four weeks and three days after an internal appeals panel vacated suspensions imposed on Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Saints defensive end Will Smith, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove, the league has re-issued the discipline without any changes or reductions, according to a league source.
This means that Vilma will be suspended a full season, Fujita will be suspended three games, Smith will be suspended four games, and Hargrove will be suspended eight games.
All four players have the right to appeal the ruling to Commissioner Roger Goodell. Given that the players chose this time around to meet with Goodell before he issued the suspensions, the players may be more inclined to participate in the appeal process this time around.
Given that the league has relied this time around on lengthy sworn statements from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo, it’s likely that both will testify at the appeal hearing.
Then, after the appeal process has been completed, the players likely will take the league back to court — barring a dramatic reduction or reversal of the punishments by Goodell.
The players also may challenge the rulings once again under the labor deal, if the players believe that the punishment in any way extends beyond Goodell’s jurisdiction over conduct detrimental to the game and encroaches on possible salary-cap violations.
UPDATE 3:37 p.m. ET: The NFL says that an explanation of the re-issued bounty discipline is coming soon. Asked for confirmation that the same discipline has been meted out, the league said, “It’s not that simple.” As to specific question as to whether the penalties will be the same, the NFL said, “Not all.”