In a decision that shocked many, a three-person appeals court has overturned the player suspensions handed down in the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate scandal, according to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter.
BREAKING: A 3-member appeals panel has overturned the player suspensions in the Saints bounty case, says a source. Details coming.— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) September 7, 2012
The NFL Players Association had filed appeals on behalf of Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove on Tuesday.
The decision will also affect Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who had filed an appeal on his own accord earlier this offseason.
By overturning the suspensions, all four men will be eligible to play immediately, though it's unclear whether any of them will suit up on Sunday.
As always is the case in major announcements like this, many across the globe immediately took to Twitter to give their reactions.
Vilma, who had been suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season by commissioner Roger Goodell, quoted an infamous animated toddler to express his excitement.
Victory is mine!!!! -stewie griffin— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 7, 2012
In support of Vilma, outspoken Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted out his reaction with a strong jab toward Goodell as well.
Congratulations to Jonathan Vilma. Goodell was wrong for trying to steal one year of a player's career.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) September 7, 2012
Also throwing a little heat Goodell's way while keeping the situation at a lighthearted pace was parody account Faux John Madden, who has gathered a strong following with his sports witticisms.
"Can I still fine James Harrison at least?" - Saddened Roger Goodell hearing about Saints suspension being overturned— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) September 7, 2012
A staunch critic of the player suspensions since they have been levied, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tweeted out support to his teammates upon hearing the news.
Congratulations to our players and the Saints organization. A 3 judge panel UNANIMOUSLY overturned the bounty suspensions for players.— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) September 7, 2012
Unfortunately for Saints fans, this decision does not come with all good news. Coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire 2012 season, will not be coming back this season, according to Robert Littal of Black Sports Online.
Only the players suspensions are lifted...Sean Payton and rest of the coaches still have to watch DirecTV— Robert Littal (@BlkSportsOnline) September 7, 2012
Even if Payton's suspension stands in the long-run, ESPN's Stats and Info shed light on how much Smith and Vilma's return will mean for the Saints.
Will Smith & Jonathan Vilma were 2 of 5 #Saints defenders to play at least 80 percent of defensive snaps last season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 7, 2012
With many prognosticators predicting doom for the Saints in the 2012 season, this is nothing less than a win for the franchise.
Most of all, though, it's a decision that comes at a perfect time for the players. By being officially on-roster Week 1, each of the players' 2012 salaries become guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Economic impact of suspensions being overturned: players wi be on respective rosters to start season, guaranteeing their salaries for 2012.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2012
ESPN NFL analyst Lomas Brown appeared on Sportscenter in wake of the decision and expressed his joy for the players.
His reaction was tweeted out by Sportscenter's Twitter feed:
"I thought the commissioner was wrong in suspending those [Saints players] & I'm glad to hear it got overturned" -@lomasbrown on SC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 7, 2012
Pointing out what many have over the duration of this scandal, ESPN radio broadcaster Mike Greenburg also joined in on the jubilation.
Regardless, this story has not hit its conclusion yet. All players are eligible for Sunday, but Goodell still has some authority to alter his decision. That move will not come this weekend, according to Schefter.
Roger Goodell likely to reach a new decision in coming weeks, but it will mot be before this weekend's games.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2012
An initial decision has been made, but look for this situation to linger throughout the 2012 NFL season.