For three of the players whose suspension were overturned by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the bounty case is finally over.
As to Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who was fully exonerated by Tagliabue, there’s nothing for Fujita to challenge in court. As to Saints defensive end Will Smith and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove, their names were not cleared, because Tagliabue concluded that they both engaged in conduct detrimental to the league.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Smith and Hargrove will not be challenging Tagliabue’s decision in court. They both believe that they have been vindicated by Tagliabue’s 22-page ruling. Tagliabue concluded that it was “inappropriate” for Goodell to “singl[e] out” Smith for discipline “when most or all of the Saints’ defensive unit committed the same or similar acts as those underpinning the discipline of Smith.” As to Hargrove, Tagliabue decided that it wasn’t clear that Hargrove lied to investigators, because it’s unclear what NFL investigators asked him in March 2010.
Consequently, the motion to vacate the arbitration ruling, previously filed by the NFLPA on behalf of Fujita, Smith, and Hargrove, has been withdrawn.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whom Tagliabue also ruled engaged in “conduct detrimental,” could decide separately to attack the arbitration award, in an effort to obtain full exoneration and vindication. Or he could seek his vindication via the defamation lawsuit.
Since Vilma is operating on his own, he’ll have to decide whether he wants to spend additional legal fees even though he no longer faces any potential financial loss. Given that Vilma seems to be very concerned about clearing his name, it wouldn’t be a shock if chooses to fight Tagliabue’s ultimate finding.