Tagliabue “vacates all player discipline”

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From the Twitter account of NFL spokesman Greg Aiello comes the league’s statement regarding the outcome of the bounty appeal hearing.

The players have won.  We think.

“Tagliabue affirms factual findings of Commissioner Goodell concludes Hargrove, Smith, Vilma ‘engaged in conduct detrimental’ and vacates all player discipline,” Aiello says, using “and” where perhaps “but” would have been the better choice.

Regardless, the suspensions imposed on Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove have been overturned.

He also offers this quote from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who issued the ruling:  “Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects.  My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

In other words, Tagliabue had decided that the players should not be punished, even though he thinks they did something wrong.

We’ll be breaking this one down in more detail soon.

109 responses to “Tagliabue “vacates all player discipline”

  1. WOW. It is not like it would have mattered anyway. This thing was a train wreck when it happened. The point of suspending them now for three weeks would be nothing short of dumb.

  2. So they have absolutely no conclusive evidence and basically nuked the Saints season because Goodell had some sort of personal vendetta against New Orleans?

    I hope Vilma, Smith and Fujita sue the pants off Goodell.

  3. I’m glad this is (hopefully?) over. The Saints are a dead end team this year but will be a prime bounce back candidate next season, Sean Payton has earned himself a big contract extension by essentially doing nothing.

    I think the Saints probably did something wrong but the punishments were far too severe. Hopefully Goodell takes his time before handing out punishment next year.

  4. Wow. Basically he is saying they did it but the punishment is too harsh. Who exactly won? This seems like the most politically “split down the middle” ruling possible. I think the players should have received some form of punishment but the fans can no longer say “they did NOTHING wrong”.

  5. Drew Brees finally gets his explanation! There is none!

    Can we have our coach back too now that Goodell has officially ruined the Saints’ season?

    Time to get #FireGoodell trending

  6. I wonder if Tags felt like the Saints players had already been punished enough by playing so poorly this year. That organization is in serious trouble. Payton may be gone. Brees’s contract is going to handcuff them for the foreseeable future. And Tom Benson is a sleezeball.

  7. So Tagliabue agrees with Roger Goodell that the players did something wrong….but he’s decided they shouldn’t be punished?

    This verdict seems to be, “The prosecutor was completely correct, so the defendants should walk free of punishment.”

    I have no stake in this, but this is ridiculous: either Goodell was right (and the players should be punished) OR Goodell was wrong/handed down the punishments despite little evidence (and GOODELL should be punished).

  8. This must be a mistake? Those dirty Saints players were guilty of EVERYthing…right?

    I hope Vilma keeps his defamation suit against Goodell. Dude needs to pay for scapegoating the Saints.

    And to all the haters who will once again make an excuse for why this happened. There is NO WAY IN HELL Tags reverses this on Goodell unless he knew there was NO WAY of proving the case. This has been clear since the beginning to Saints fans and a few journalists like Florio. Most of you however have simply been blinded by your hate of the Saints. However unjustified that may or may not be,

    Huge black eye for Goodell.

  9. So at the end of the day this whole ideal was pointless if the former Commish says he agrees with Goodell something went wrong but from the Coaches standpoint but not to the point to punish the players.

    Goodell ruined the Saints season and made the players have to defend their innocence from day one and for what. Goodell took the L on this one and still has to deal with the defamation lawsuit by Vilma.

    The self proclaimed “enforcer” has lot of clout that he had and now has to be extra careful in handing down any future decisions.

  10. “However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

    NO, it was contaminated by the NFL.

  11. Roger Goodell is a complete weasel. Dude flip flops more than anybody in a position of power should ever be allowed to. I doubt he’ll step down, but that is the only way to make this right.

  12. Never had nothing. Well Goodell still got what he wanted, A Super Bowl without the saints, that would have been bad Biz for the greedy NFL.

  13. Makes sense.

    The entire Saints defense participated, they are all “guilty”. It is an undeniable fact that the whole bounty scandal happened, nobody is arguing it didn’t.

    But individualized punishments was the bigger issue. How can you say “Vilma is more guilty than Hargrove who is more guilty than that second string safety that they had that year”

    Banning Greg Williams for life was the right move.
    Suspending Loomis for half a season was the right move.
    Suspending Payton for the whole year was a bit steep, but a message needed to be sent.

    Overall, I’m glad this is “over” and after all this, I can guarantee after such a conundrum it will never happen again.

  14. Does anyone outside the players involved and the league office even care about the bounty case anymore?

  15. Honestly, with regards to Bounty-Gate, the NFL and Goodell still won.

    Saints season torpedoed – if you don’t think the suspensions and the distractions had anything to do with that, you’re crazy.

    What Goodell did lose was some credibility.

    So whoever said it earlier in the thread – both sides won, and both sides lost – was right.

  16. So Tags agrees with Goodell that there was wrong doing, but with the coaches and staff of the Saints trying to cover their butts that they “contaminated” the evidence against the players. I can agree with his ruling of vacating the suspensions and in turn using fines as punishment.
    I think everyone by now can hopefully agree that these players have done some wrong doing regardless of what you think of Goodell. Whether the players roles were larger or smaller is the question that can’t be answered so I think this ruling is very fair.
    NOW Let’s all just move on!!!

  17. While I appreciate the tightrope that Tags had to walk here in drawing the distinction between the organization (coaches, GM, and draft pick penalties) and the players, what it really comes down to is that they needed actual proof against the players.

    Thanks for the lost season, Roger. You really did what was best for the league here.

  18. Goddell should never have suspended the players in the first place. As soon as the Gregg Williams audio leaked, how could you put ANY of this on the players? If the organization created this environment in the first place how can you put any blame on a player buying into the system? Their very livelihoods in this league and as leaders in the locker room rode on them buying into what their defensive coordinator told them to do BEYOND following orders–No matter how ridiculous or unethical Williams orders were. Taglibue got it right.

  19. So pretty much they decided to blame it on the coaches who didn’t fight their punishment so that it still looks like the saints did something wrong even though the players just had everything vacated sounds suspicious to me

  20. Let me get this straight, the NFL is saying the Saints broke the rules and players showed conduct detrimental but….

    we’re letting them off of the hook cause we’re nice guys!

    Sounds really fishy. I mean REALLY FISHY. Just admit it already. The charges and the punishment was waaaaay overblown. If the league thought that they players were guilty, the league would have stopped at nothing to suspend them! This is the NFL trying to make this quietly go away…and it probably will now.

  21. So…not enough evidence they did enough to get punished but no wrongdoing by goodell? I have no dog in this fight, but it would seem either the players were wrong or goodell was…

  22. Let me make sure I am reading this correctly..

    The NFL is admitting it was wrong?????

    And if the above is true, wouldn’t this be the first time ever???????

    Front Office Folks, (FOF) get ready, this concussion case is gonna rock your world, and now there is “precedence” that the Mighty NFL is fallible.

  23. Now the NFL needs to give back the second round pick that they stole from us AND let Sean Payton resume his coaching duties. The witchhunt blew up in Goodell’s face.

  24. sadskinsfan89 says:
    Dec 11, 2012 1:28 PM
    Now Goddell has got to go. It was all a sham.
    —————————————————————————————————-

    wouldnt doubt if Benson(owner)took one for the NFL here..for Lawsuits agaisnt the NFL..SMDH

  25. “In other words, Tagliabue had decided that the players should not be punished, even though he thinks they did something wrong.”

    The players have long admitted that there were violations with the pay for performance system, for which Tagliabue stated he “could certainly justify the issuance of fines,” but NOT suspensions.

    Goodell overreached. This was a matter of catching someone going 55 in a 50, but then presenting it as a case of conspiracy to commit vehicular homicide.

  26. Despite all of this he, sadly, still will not get into the Hall of Fame this year.

    When there should be peace between the owners and the players and being one of two sports commissioners in the 1990s and 2000 to have actual labor peace It is a shame that he is not in Canton right now.

    I get the feeling that the writers (The majority of whom are not credible nor should be qualified to vote) Will say “oh, he sided with the players. He is doing more wrong to the owners what how he did with the last collective-bargaining agreement” What it is them who live petty And have too little of objectivity or a wealth of knowledge to vote the correct people in.

    Job well done to Commissioner Tagliabue and all I can say is that Did game might be more entertaining today, but it is too restricted for the players Without his presence currently.

  27. Soooooo..

    “They did it, but there’s no proof because the damn Saints contaminated the investigation, so no suspensions *cough*pleasestopthelawsuit*cough*.”

    Huh?

    Total CYA for Goodell, haha, see you back in court.

  28. Good call by Tagliabue, while I am confident that the Saints did have an “illegal” bounty system, the NFL could not absolutely prove it. You combine the lack of conclusive proof with the fact of all the money that was involved (the players’) and their livelyhoods (the players’), this was the only way Tagliabue could rule. I said before, the NFL was loosing the PR battle and now they have lost the war. I concur that Goodell should begin the process of stepping down as the commissioner of the NFL, there was a whole lot made of this and the league had a whole lot to loose if this failed.

  29. This has been a STAIN on the game for so long, I am glad it is almost over. The NFL (GOD) made it’s point, and I am glad they hired TAG to get them out of this very tough to prove legal position, I don’t think they needed to take this so far as they did. Thank the real lord, if this is almost over. What a mess.

  30. Regardless of whether the ruling was right or wrong or whatever, I am NOT looking forward to hearing an inevitable Drew Brees statement that includes the words “innocent”, “vindicated” and/or “justice”.

    A lack of evidence does not automatically equate to innocence.

    Other teams have promoted similar incentive programs in the past but the Saints refused to cooperate with the league before they were punished back in March and so they got popped.

    Be happy with the ruling and focus now on getting that ship turned around down there. With a good offseason, you guys can have a nice bounce back year and maybe do some real damage in 2013.

  31. Reading comments most folks are missing the point that players were GUILTY, Tags just did not agree with the punishment handed out due to the organization handled this, and he was never one to hand out suspensions so not a shock. The fact that Goodell, Tags and a retired judge all reviewed the evidnece and agree players were guilty shows the Goodell was correct in his assessment.

    Perhaps suspensions were too long but players were guilty and should be punished, so all should say thank you and move on. Of course Capt Arrogance (Vilma) already confirmed he will continue to sue league to clear his name since he still will not admit his guilt and move on, so he is just pathetic as he still thinks he is above the law.

  32. Clearly John Mara recognized that Steve Spagnuola in NO was a direct threat to his Giants and ordered his minion, Goodell, to blow up the Saints season. What good is it to cripple the Cowboys and Redskins on the brink of free agency if you just have to face the Saints in the playoffs? Mission accomplished. All is on schedule in the Mara Football League.

    At least Tagliabue may still have some remaining decency and independence and can hold up to the coming blitz of pressure from Mara. He needs to look Baby John in the face and say, “I knew Wellington Mara, and you, son, are no Wellington Mara.” Hail!

  33. I agree with the former commish. Even if you have clear evidence that the players were guilty of wrongdoing, as soon as you bring a guy like Gregg Williams in , whose future in the NFL depends on whether Goodell likes his testimony, it makes the NFL case dirty. It was not unlike the OJ case where he clearly did it, but then the prosecution did things like introduce blood that was supposed to be from the ground but had preservatives that would only be found in vacutainers. They cheated, so they lost; and the same thing happened here. If the federal judge had ruled on it, she’d have come to the same conclusion.

  34. This makes no sense. He agreed with the evidence, he agrees Vilma put a bounty on Favre, but because the coaches were in on it the players have no responsibility. They aren’t guilty because their bosses agreed with it?

  35. Yeah we know you robbed the bank, we have evidence, but we’re gonna let you off because, well, that’s just the kinda good guys we are! It was a crock of stinky stuff from the beginning. Blaming the coaches gives the NFL the excuse it needs for keeping Sean Payton out a year and ruining the season for the Saints and all of their fans. A class action suit should be filed.

  36. YES…

    …I guess this means Goodell won’t be put under oath and deposed, forced to tell the truth under the penalty of law.

    I hope this is the end of it…a case that should never have been pursued.

    The NFL owner’s hired Goodell and they should think hard about sending this guy back to minor league.

  37. Villa didn’t win, he may play but he agreed there was wrongdoing that justified fines.. So no Vilma didn’t get proven to do nothing wrong

  38. It sounds to me from this ruling that Tagliabue DID find plenty of misconduct – but it was mostly on a coaching and organizational level, meaning the suspensions of Payton and Williams were not being questioned by Tagliabue in any way. Am I reading that correctly?

    If that’s the case (and again, I freely admit I may be interpreting this wrong) – then the pro-Saints people should be quiet about there not being a program in a first place, and anti-Saints people should get off their high horse about the players being primary instigators. I agree with everyone who said “everybody loses” here.

  39. Goodell was at saints and giants game….he wanted to watch saimts season end and missiom accomplished! ok tags vacate suspensions for players boom! Saints are done this season.

  40. Wow…are saints fans really this dumb?This clears the players, but its pretty clear your coaches are guilty of exactly what goodwill says they did. Stop crying.

  41. dukemarc says:Dec 11, 2012 1:33 PM

    I wonder if Tags felt like the Saints players had already been punished enough by playing so poorly this year. That organization is in serious trouble. Payton may be gone. Brees’s contract is going to handcuff them for the foreseeable future. And Tom Benson is a sleezeball.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Some people just don’t understand – The WHOLE reason the Saints players are playing so bad this season is BECAUSE of this mess. If anything now this thing will really get off the ground and watch the “chit hit the fan” when the fans lawsuit hits the NFL because if players were so wrong, why is nothing up-held?

  42. So if i made an crazy outlandish claim about Roger Goodell, and state that I have dump trucks full of proof but fail to furnish any proof Roger wouldn’t sue me for defamation? Good to know!!

  43. Shrewd move by Tags. “Yes the players did it, but they were told to by their coaches. The coaches are employed by the organizations, so the players shouldn’t be punished, the organization should.”

    I can see draft picks and fines being levied againsts the Saints.

    Since the organization advocated for this kind of behavior by the player, punish the organization.

    I am okay with this.

  44. The players were just as responsible for the bounties, which is the main point I have been trying to make. Today, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove were given gifts. But I would also take this as a warning that they have targets on their backs from other teams. I just hope they don’t come back and try suing the NFL over player safety matters when they showed no concerns for their fellow players and teammates whatsoever.

  45. smcgaels1997 says:Dec 11, 2012 1:55 PM
    Villa didn’t win, he may play but he agreed there was wrongdoing that justified fines.. So no Vilma didn’t get proven to do nothing wrong
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Vilma’s wrongdoing is the exact same thing that every other of the 31 teams have been doing also.
    So the words you printed are YOUR opinion – in reality if they did so wrong why could they not up-hold the suspensions – apparently it wasn’t all that bad huh???????????

  46. Great job by Tagliabue of walking a tightrope. Given his “conflict of interest” he gave the best resolution that he could possibly give.

    Goodell is safe from a defamation suit from Benson, Lumis, and Payton. But, the genie is out of the bottle where Vilma is concerned and the suit will not be withdrawn.

    I know we all wish this would go away, but if these allegations were made against me, I would ride the train all the way into the station for the sake of my defense. The only way I’d drop the suit now would be if Goodell came out and made a public apology. He could still do this in a face-saving way and come out looking all the better for it.

  47. Fire Goodell? Wow, you guys are really naive. Roger Goodell is doing EXACTLY what the owners want him to do – take the heat for them on just about every issue, and not just Bountygate.

    If the owners thought Goodell was doing a bad job, he would have been fired already.

  48. YouMadCauseImStylingOnYou says:
    Dec 11, 2012 1:29 PM
    So they have absolutely no conclusive evidence and basically nuked the Saints season because Goodell had some sort of personal vendetta against New Orleans?
    ____________________________
    Thank you for further perpetuating the steroetype of Saints fans being paranoid conspiracy theorists, but you’re off base here with this one. Based on this little quote, Tags is basically saying that the Saints did have an illegal operation going on behind the scenes, BUT Goddell was wrong to suspend a few individual players, when clearly the bigger issue was with ownership and coaching, which is why they are not having their suspensions lifted.

  49. This completely invalidates the entire case on the players and coaches and against the team no matter what face saving comment Tags made.

    When you don’t have evidence to prove the bounty program existed, how can you even punish the team.

    The order of justice is wrong.

    This is a phony sham.

    Saints should be given back draft pick and given an extra one and a formal apology by the league.

    They should also demand RG resigns. Or puts a samurai sword in his own belly for his shame.

    All this says is if you have a fair legal system where the accused can defend themselves, you tend to get justice. How can you hold up the coach and team penalties when they didn’t have such rights?

    I predict two things.

    The league will go into a tailspin until they end RGs reign.

    RG will not make it thru the Superbowl as commissioner. Either he is fired or is capped in new orleans.

  50. sadskinsfan89 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:28 PM

    Now Goddell has got to go. It was all a sham. He cannot just get awsy with this.

    Why? Tags agreed that Goodell had proof enough to punish the players.

  51. p31squared

    I don’t know what team you’re a fan of. But,if it was you team that was wronged I’m not sure you would be in such a hurry to move on

  52. cowboycjn says:
    Some people just don’t understand – The WHOLE reason the Saints players are playing so bad this season is BECAUSE of this mess. If anything now this thing will really get off the ground and watch the “chit hit the fan” when the fans lawsuit hits the NFL because if players were so wrong, why is nothing up-held?
    ______________________________
    If you honestly belive that the reason they suck up one side and down the other this year is solely because of this bountygate debacle, then you my friend need to stop drinking the koolaid. I think it’s fair to say their defense is TERRIBLE and teams have finally figured out how to stop an offense with a great QB, good wideouts, and a makeshift backfield. I think the timing is ironic, but there’s no way you can chalk this season up to “well it’s all because of this bountygate thing.”

  53. YouMadCauseImStylingOnYou says: Dec 11, 2012 1:29 PM

    So they have absolutely no conclusive evidence and basically nuked the Saints season because Goodell had some sort of personal vendetta against New Orleans?

    I hope Vilma, Smith and Fujita sue the pants off Goodell.

    *********************

    Reading comprehension…Tags says he agrees in principle that Goodell had proof that the players did what they were accused of, and should have been fined.

    I hope Goodell now comes back and fines them an equal amount as if they had been suspended. Vilma can give up a year’s salary.

  54. Since Tagliabue is around can he look into the relationship between Goodell and Mara, it may provide an “unfair competitive advantage” and the Giants may need to lose cap space or picks, since they decided this year to use the Saints, Redskins and Cowboys as the leagues whipping boys. Only the Raiders stood with these teams against this. I’ve never seen three teams so intentionally crippled.

  55. Remind me Saints fans, was it Roger Goodell who kept kicking to David Wilson Sunday, 60 yard return after 60 yard return? The Saints weren’t making the Super Bowl this year no matter what, but now you can all claims the NFL screwed you. No, having a pathetic defense screwed you

  56. besdayz,

    Get over it. While all teams probably do it, the Saints got caught. Tag said he believes the charges are true, but the Saints lied, cheated and stole so much, that the entire case has become corrupted. That is a far cry from “innocent”. Don’t hold your breath for that apology. The owners will probably give Goodell a raise this summer because he is doing what he is pid for – to keep the heat off of owners.

  57. pettytom says:
    Dec 11, 2012 1:42 PM
    Now the NFL needs to give back the second round pick that they stole from us AND let Sean Payton resume his coaching duties. The witchhunt blew up in Goodell’s face.
    ———————————————————–
    What part of ““Tagliabue affirms factual findings of Commissioner Goodell concludes Hargrove, Smith, Vilma ‘engaged in conduct detrimental’ ” and “Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”? The organization broke the rules, case closed. They deserved the loss of draft picks and such. The players were found quilty too.

  58. From Tag’s statement:

    ” I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell’s findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty.”

    BUT, he also says…

    “Adding to the complexity, there is little evidence of the tone of any talk about a bounty before the Vikings game. Was any bounty pledged serious? Was it inspirational only? Was it typical “trash talk” that occurs regularly before and during games? The parties presented no clear answers. No witness could confirm whether Vilma had any money in his hands as he spoke; no evidence was presented that $10,000 was available to him for purposes of paying a bounty or otherwise. There was no evidence that Vilma or anyone else paid any money to any player for any bounty-related hit on an opposing player in the Vikings game.”

    Which is it, Tags?

  59. The players got off because the NFL never anticipated they’d fight back. Goody and his henchmen thought they’d just accept whatever was dolled out without protest. It helped that they have a players union that backed them 100%. The coaches, on the other hand, have no such support and had to take what was given if they wanted to ever work in the league again. The NFL’s case fell apart and to save face, they went after those who could not defend themselves. Goodell has made a mockery of the entire NFL.

  60. So many people calling for Goodell’s head. But, is there hardly anybody outside of New Orleans that actually cares? I’m a Vikings fan. I don’t care about the Saints or Goodell. Goodell has simply made the NFL the best sport in America. Will things change in my life if he stays or goes? Hell no. I just want the Saints fans to shut up.

  61. Saints fans should feel gratified… Now they can get the rest of their team back in time for their playoff run

  62. I can’t believe so many people are trying to read so much in Tags statement.. The players were not vindicated. What he said was that it could not be proven that the coaching staff was not responsible for Bountygate. The coaches are basically the players boss. Although the players did things that were wrong they may have done them to stay in good graces with their “bosses” So it is his opinion that the players should be given some slack because it is possible that they we coerced by management to perform in a manner that was not consistent with the rules.

  63. I think of it thus way. It’s like when someone commits a crime, is found guilty and only gets probation as their sentence. That is basically what Tags is saying here. The evidence was there for the players to be considered guilty but their punishment did not fit what they did. The coaches and the organization on the other hand is far more guilty and their punishments stick.

  64. The whole ruling is designed to help out the NFL.

    1) The bounty players have no motivation to keep dragging out the appeals process and making the NFL’s investigation look bad, to keep on dragging Goodell’s name in the mud, etc.

    2) The ruling says Goodell was justified in making the decisions he made, even if the punishments were too harsh. This statement is designed to let Goodell save face and give him some defense in case the defamation case goes forward.

    3) The players get off free. The league lets Goodell save some face. Sean Payton, the only party here without any clear legal recourse or union to help him, gets screwed and scapegoated again, when he probably had the least to do with the bounties of anyone involved.

    Goodell basically destroyed the Saints chances of hosting the superbowl in their home town. I do believe the rumors that he and Payton personally don’t like each other. I can’t think of any other realistic reason why Payton would be suspended for a full year for “loss of institutional control” when no other coach in history has gotten a suspension even close to what he got.

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