The NFL has re-issued the discipline to four players who were implicated by a league investigation in the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
The NFL said the bounty program resulted in "conduct detrimental to football" and resulted in injuries to Saints' opponents.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has again been suspended for the entire 2012 regular season. However, the league states Vilva "will retain the salary he has received for the first six games of the season that he has spent on the “PUP” list."
Saints defensive end Will Smith is once again suspended for four games. His appeal was rejected, according to the league, due to evidence of his direct approval of and participation in the program:
“At our meeting in September, you confirmed that you expressed approval of the program when it was first presented to you by Coach Williams. You also confirmed that you provided money to the program pool both at the beginning of the season and again during the playoffs. I understand that you deny that anyone intended to inflict injury on any opposing player..."
Free agent Anthony Hargrove, originally suspended for eight games, now faces the remainder of a seven game ban. However, the ex-Saints defensive lineman will be credited for five games missed as an unsigned player so far in 2012 and will serve a two-game suspension once he is signed by a club.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita's three game ban has been reduced to one game.
The four players were suspended by the NFL for their involvement in the alleged bounty program but had their suspensions overturned by a collective bargaining agreement panel last month.
Another labor appeal of the suspension is expected by all four players. Vilma previously sued Goodell in a federal court for defamation. Goodell once again alleges in today's new judgment that two former Saints assistants - ex-defensive corodinator Gregg Williams and ex-defensive assistant Mike Cerullo - confirmed to league investigators that Vilma made a pledge for a specific bounty on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Farve before the 2012 NFC Championship Game:
In addition, sworn declarations of Coach Williams and Mr. Cerullo confirm that a specific bounty was placed on Brett Favre prior to the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season, as (former Minnesota Head) Coach (Brad) Childress believed to be the case. Mr. Vilma has denied this, but I have decided that the record as a whole confirms that he made such a pledge.
While Childress is referred to in the new release on the rulings, a former Vikings defensive tackle is mentioned in a memo sent to all NFL teams on Tuesday as a source who the league says confirmed the Favre bounty via Hargrove himself:
Brad Childress, then Head Coach of the Minnesota Vikings, informed us that he believed that Saints players had placed a bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. In subsequent discussions, Coach Childress said that a Vikings player, Jimmy Kennedy, had told him that the Saints defensive unit had offered a $10,000 bounty on Mr. Favre and that Mr. Kennedy had identified Anthony Hargrove, then a defensive player for the Saints, as the source of his information.
The NFL Players Union issued a stern response to the newest league rulings. Steadfast denial of any intent to injure by the players involved sets the stage for the next wave of appeals and perhaps legal challenges:
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.
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