Weeks after an internal appeals panel vacated the player suspensions from the Saints bounty scandal, the NFL has reportedly decided to reissue the suspensions with some minor revisions.
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 9 at 5:25 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
This mess is just beginning. In response to the NFL reissuing suspensions, the NFLPA is firing back.
The NFLPA passed along this statement (via Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt):
For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake.
We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance.
In other words, this is going to court.
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 9 at 5 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
The NFL has officially spoken on this matter, which you can view for yourself with this document.
It looks as if the below update on the revised suspension lengths is correct.
UPDATE: Tuesday, October 9 at 4:48 p.m. ET by Richard Langford
ESPN's Adam Schefter passed along this bit of info, which he apparently attained from his colleague Chris Mortensen.
And @mortreport has it: Vilma suspension the same but will not lose game checks from the time he is on PUP. Scott Fujita reduced from 3 games to 1. Will Smith remains the same. Anthony Hargrove reduced from 8 to 7 games.
Finally, some clarity. It would have been nice to see Hargrove's suspension eased a bit more. It's hard to see him being able to get back in the league with this hanging over his head.
---END OF UPDATE---
Although in what should be no surprise given the murky and drawn out nature of this process, there is conflicting information on those suspensions being exactly the same length as they were originally.
Pro Football Talk tweeted out the news.
Per league source, NFL re-issues player discipline in bounty cases unchanged.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 9, 2012
PFT's Mike Florio reported that the original suspensions would be unaltered: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the year, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was told to serve a three-gamer, Saints defensive end Will Smith earned four games and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove drew eight games.
However, it would apparently be far too easy to have the suspensions revert to a framework we are already familiar with. PFT followed up with this tweet, not long after Florio's report:
On whether the same penalties will be issued against Vilma, Smith, Fujita, Hargrove, NFL says, "Not all."— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 9, 2012
Well, thanks for nothing, NFL! What is that supposed to mean?
Luckily, the smart guys at PFT have a pretty good hunch what it means, as they added this to the fire:
Very good source says bounty discipline not changed.NFL says "not all."Semantics likely are at play.Again.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 9, 2012
Of course it is semantics! It's all so clear now.
My guess is that the league set out to keep the suspensions the same, but did so while finding a way to word them that clearly had them falling under Roger Goodell's jurisdiction, which would help them avoid the problem that led to the appeals panel vacating the suspensions back on September 7.
The worst part about all this news is that this issue is not over, and it's likely not even close to over.
Florio added in his report that the players would still be allowed to appeal the decision. It should be pretty clear to everyone that Goodell and the league, who oversee the appeals, are not overly willing to budge on these suspensions.
So, in all likelihood, any attempted appeal has a very slim chance of leaving any of the suspended parties satisfied. At that point, this whole mess will likely jump back to the court system.
This case is turning into the Blair Witch Project. There's just no escaping these woods.