Paul Tagliabue Vacates Saints Players' Bountygate Punishments

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2012

Paul Tagliabue may agree with Roger Goodell's findings in the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate scandal, but not the punishments of individual players.

According to NFL public relations head Greg Aiello, Tagliabue, who was acting as a neutral arbitrator in the case, has vacated the suspensions of Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Jonathan Vilma.

Aiello released Tagliabue's statement in a series of tweets:

Tagliabue affirms factual findings of Commissioner Goodell...concludes Hargrove, Smith, Vilma "engaged in conduct detrimental" and...

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012

vacates all player discipline. "Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged...

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012

"...individual player misconduct in several different aspects...My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify...

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012

"the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


When notified of Tagliabue’s decision, the NFL released a statement of its own, once again released on Aiello’s Twitter feed:


Our statement on PT's ruling: "We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary..

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


"...matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tag.."

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


" Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program..."

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


" violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority.."

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


"...under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter..."

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


" protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football."End of NFL statement.

— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012


While the NFL can still appeal to a higher court, Tagliabue's decision should mark an end to the scandal that has marred the 2012 Saints season.

Goodell had initially suspended Vilma for the entire season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith for four games and Scott Fujita for three games as part of his punishments for the Saints’ bounty system.

Under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely for his part, New Orleans employed a system where players would be paid for big hits, or even injuries, levied on opposing players.

The most glaring example of that came against then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Favre was injured in that contest, which the Saints won en route to their franchise's first Super Bowl victory.

Head coach Sean Payton was also punished for his part and has been serving out a suspension for the entirety of the 2012 season. 

Based on his statements, that seems to be the way Tagliabue wanted it. While his stance doesn't necessarily let anyone off the hook, his statement seems to be a condemnation of the organization more than the players.

Still, by taking the time to read the testimony and making a decision, the former commissioner has finally done something Goodell struggled to do and ended the scandal.


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