NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is stepping aside in the Saints bounty case appeals process and turning it over to former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Tagliabue will hear the second set of appeals from four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- who were penalized for their roles in an alleged program that rewarded teammates for injuring or knocking opponents out of games. The player suspensions ran from a full season for Vilma to parts of the season for the others.
Saints Coach Sean Payton was also suspended for the season while two of his top assistants were suspended for six games.
Goodell notified the players and their union of the move on Friday. DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players’ union, tweeted confirmation of Tagliabue taking over.
“I have held two hearings to date and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players,” Goodell said Friday. “I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.
“Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.”
Goodell said Tagliabue would be coming into the process without prejudice.
“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter, nor has he been any part of the process,” Goodell said. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings.”