Paul Tagliabue has issued his ruling, per Greg Aiello of NFL PR, in his review of the Saints players’ appeals of the Bounty suspensions, after Roger Goodell recused himself. According to Aiello, Tagliabue affirmed findings of fact regarding Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma, but vacated the punishments imposed. Tagliabue’s comments, per Aiello’s Twitter account:
“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects…My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization. Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell’s findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty (on Brett Favre).”
Let’s read between the lines here. First, there is no mention of Scott Fujita, a labor leader within the NFLPA and a harsh critic of Goodell in the past during labor negotiations. Why not? We’ll soon find out.
On a broader level, Tagliabue found a bounty program to exist. He found evidence that the players mentioned were involved, and mentioned Vilma. When he says “this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization,” though, he is finding that the actions there were more severe and institutional. Not good for Sean Payton, and not good for Mickey Loomis. He basically says there is evidence that the players did something, but the problem came from the top.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]