Saints Bountygate Suspensions Revoked, Players Reinstated For Week 1 Action
The panel overruled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension, which he handed down last May, notably featuring the yearlong suspension against Vilma and Saints head coach Sean Payton. Fujita (three games), Smith (four) and Hargrove (eight) received suspensions varied in length. Vilma, 30, would have lost an entire season near the tail end of his career.
As NFL Network’s Albert Breer wrote on Twitter, Goodell could easily come back in a few weeks and uphold his suspension under the “pay to injure” provision, whereas the board stated the bounty scandal had to do with salary cap violation. Should Goodell have proof, he may reinstate all suspensions under that stipulation.
Trotter gives an educated thought as to why the decision came before most of Week 1's games had been played:
“Members of the appeals panel did not speak publicly, but it's likely they felt compelled to rule quickly after hearing the union's argument last week. If it had waited beyond this week and ruled in favor of the players, it could have been argued that the players had been irreparably harmed. Not only would they have lost out on a Week 1 game check, but also their salaries would not have been guaranteed for the season. Salaries for vested veterans are guaranteed if they're on the Week 1 roster.”
This could prove to be a monumental win for the players. The NFL Players Association argued that the bounty rewards were means to circumvent the team’s salary cap, as a monetary incentive, opposed to a means to injure opposing players. Goodell remained quiet about the case, refusing to disclose any evidence he claimed to possess.
Goodell had been seen as the judge, jury and executioner regarding NFL suspensions as the all-deciding figure. Since taking the commissioner’s seat in 2006, Goodell has seldom hesitated in determining and distributing suspensions should a player or coach break the NFL’s conduct code.
But taking a year away from a player for an on-the-field action was too severe. This ruling injects suspension into Goodell’s recent tactics. What kind of proof does he have? Was it legitimate? In order to gain trust with the public, he must disclose what he used to reach his first decision. Because if he cannot justify reapplying the suspensions, he will make himself and the league look foolish and unjust. And no one wants that.