Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has issued a ruling in the bounty matter that vacates all player discipline.
Here’s the statement, via Twitter, that was just issued by NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello, in which Tagliabue is quoted:
"Tagliabue affirms factual findings of Commissioner [Roger] Goodell...concludes Hargrove, Smith, Vilma 'engaged in conduct detrimental' and vacates all player discipline. '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)."
Here's the NFL's statement:
"We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tag[liabue] as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football."
Let me digest this and see if the NFL has any more to say and I’ll be back in a bit with analysis.