NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has followed through on his bounty suspensions with Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita.
UPDATE: Tuesday, July 3 at 5:34 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
ESPN's Adam Schefter threw out this tweet, which makes it pretty clear that at least three of these guys will not accept this decision without a fight.
Lawyers for Scott Fujita, Will Smith, Anthony Hagrove plan to file a temporary restraining order to try to stop suspensions in federal court— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 3, 2012
This is going to make and already messy situation uglier, and the ramifications of the outcome of any future legal actions could change the power structure in the NFL.
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The NFL officially announced the decision on Tuesday:
Four players – Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma – were notified today that Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the discipline that was imposed for conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their roles in the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program.
The players suspended had recently met with Goodell in an effort to appeal their suspensions, and while the commissioner took longer than anticipated to announce his decision, the players were expectedly denied.
But the NFL Players Association wasn't happy about it (via NFLPlayers.com).
The players are disappointed with the League’s conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement.
Let's take a closer look at this newest development.
What It Means
Essentially, it means we got a decision that we already knew was coming.
Goodell handed out the suspensions in the first place, and there was precisely a 0.0003 percent chance he would overturn those suspensions.
That means the New Orleans Saints will have to continue without Jonathan Vilma for the entire year and minus Will Smith for the first four games.
The Green Bay Packers lose Anthony Hargrove for eight games, while the Cleveland Browns lose Scott Fujita for three.
The bounty foursome aren't ready to give up their fight.
According to Pro Football Talk, the next step is appropriately named "Phase Two," which is essentially a way to delay the suspensions with the possibility of lifting them altogether.
Essentially, the players go to court in order to get a preliminary injunction. If they are granted the injunction, the court blocks the NFL from being able to hand out the suspensions.
If the players don't get it, well, the suspensions are upheld and that's that.
However, this process can take a while, and much like the StarCaps scandal, if it takes long enough, the suspensions, at the very least, can be delayed.