Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Tuesday overturned the case against the New Orleans Saints players involved in the bountygate scandal, vacating all discipline against them.
Tagliabue, appointed to hear the latest round of player appeals, said that even though he affirms the factual findings of Commissioner Roger Goodell, and that those findings could justify fines, “this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”
“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects,” Tagliabue said in a written statement.
In the fallout of the alleged pay-to-injure scheme, the league had originally suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the season. Receiving shorter suspensions were Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.
Vilma is pursuing a defamation suit against Goodell and apparently has no intention of dropping it.
“Jonathan intends to pursue the defamation lawsuit in order to reclaim his reputation,” his lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, wrote in an email sent to Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network. “We’re pleased that the unjust penalties have been overturned, but this is only one piece in remedying things for Jonathan.”