Jonathan Vilma Wins Suspension Appeal, Eligible to Play Week 1

Darin PikeContributor ISeptember 7, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled in the backfield byJonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome on October 30, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Saints 31-21.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The NFL suspended Jonathan Vilma and three other players for their alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" scandal. According to Albert Breer on NFL.com, an appeal panel overturned their suspensions and the players will be eligible to play this weekend.

So there you have it, the NFL has reinstated Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith for this weekend's games.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 7, 2012

Vilma was hit hardest, scheduled to miss the entire 2012 season.

He and the others aren't completely off the hook, though. If commissioner Roger Goodell can prove there was an intent to injure players, he can still suspend associated players.

ESPN.com shared a portion of the NFL's statement.

Consistent with the panel's decision, commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league's pay-for-performance/bounty rule. Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend.

Vilma didn't take long to share his feelings on the matter.

Victory is mine!!!! -stewie griffin

— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 7, 2012

Vilma is still likely a few weeks away from playing. He is recovering from a knee injury and isn't likely to be active this weekend.

Other players affected by the news are free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (eight games), Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games) and Scott Fujita (three games), who is now with the Cleveland Browns.

There has been speculation that Hargrove's suspension led to his release from the Green Bay Packers during the initial roster cuts. It will be interesting to see if they've changed their stance.

There is no change in the suspensions handed down for the coaches.