The Norman Transcript

National Sports

December 12, 2012

Saints players’ suspensions are overturned

NEW ORLEANS — Finding fault with nearly everyone tied to the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case, from the coaches to Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue tossed out the suspensions of four players Tuesday and condemned the team for obstructing the investigation.

In a surprising rejection of his successor’s overreaching punishments, Tagliabue wrote that he would “now vacate all discipline to be imposed upon” two current Saints, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, and two players no longer with the club, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Tagliabue essentially absolved Fujita, but did agree with Goodell’s finding that the other three players “engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.”

It was a ruling that allowed both sides to claim victory more than nine months after the league first made “Saints bounties” a household phrase: The NFL pointed to the determination that Goodell’s facts were right; the NFL Players Association issued a statement noting that Tagliabue said “previously issued discipline was inappropriate.”

Vilma, suspended by Goodell for the entire current season, and Smith, suspended four games, have been playing for the Saints while their appeals were pending. Fujita is on injured reserve; Hargrove is not with a team.

Tagliabue, appointed by Goodell to oversee a second round of player appeals, criticized the Saints as an organization that fostered bad behavior and tried to impede the investigation into what the NFL said was a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games from 2009 to 2011, with thousands of dollars in payouts.

A “culture” that promoted tough talk and cash incentives for hits to injure opponents — one key example was Vilma’s offer of $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2009 season — existed in New Orleans, according to Tagliabue, who also wrote that “Saints’ coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Pyrenees help leader Nibali, winner Rogers in Stage 16

    BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — The Pyrenees on Tuesday lived up to their reputation for causing ups and downs at the Tour de France: A French rider climbed in the standings, an American went down, and an Australian rebounding from an ordeal ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Mountain stage rough on Yankee rider

    BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — The Tour de France entered the Pyrenees on Tuesday for the first of three mountain stages that may well determine the final podium of this year’s race....

    July 23, 2014

  • Strong prefers not talking about a national title

    DALLAS — Charlie Strong riled up plenty of Texas fans during a statewide spring tour by saying the Longhorns wouldn’t be in the national championship game....

    July 23, 2014

  • TCU’s Fields investigated for alleged assault

    FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU suspended defensive end Devonte Fields on Tuesday pending the results of a police investigation into whether he punched a former girlfriend in the head and threatened her with a gun while shouting, “I should blast ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Sun Belt boss expresses faith in the ‘Power-5’

    NEW ORLEANS — The Sun Belt Conference’s 11 institutions are prepared to pay more to remain part of major college football, commissioner Karl Benson said Tuesday....

    July 23, 2014

  • Crunch time for Ryder Cup

    HOYLAKE, England — The end of the British Open means the Ryder Cup is getting closer, and there are a couple of regulars still not in the team. That starts with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods....

    July 23, 2014

  • Sam excited about next phase of career

    ST. LOUIS — Now it starts to get intense for Michael Sam and the rest of the St. Louis Rams rookies....

    July 23, 2014

  • Rory McIlroy appears poised to be golf’s next big thing

    HOYLAKE, England — Golf has been looking for the next big star the last five years, and Rory McIlroy is the most obvious candidate....

    July 23, 2014

  • Yankees acquire Headley from Padres

    NEW YORK — Trying to boost one of the weakest lineups in the American League, the New York Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Rays get to Wainright, win sixth straight

    ST. LOUIS — Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs over 5 2-3 innings and Yunel Escobar highlighted a five-run fifth inning with a two-run double to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night....

    July 23, 2014