Only fans innocent in Saints' scandal

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
6:33
PM ET
I know there are a lot of New Orleans Saints fans out there celebrating the fact that the player suspensions in the bounty saga have been vacated.

That’s good for the fans because they’re the innocent ones in all this. And innocence is an important item to keep in mind in all of this.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, acting as an appeals officer, set the suspensions aside. But he most certainly did not say the players were innocent.

In fact, Tagliabue firmly said that he agreed with current commissioner Roger Goodell’s finding that the Saints ran a three-year bounty program and that linebacker Jonathan Vilma placed a bounty was placed on former Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre.

By dropping the suspensions, Tagliabue might have been doing Goodell a favor. Who would have thought months ago that a defamation suit by Vilma against Goodell still would be lingering? Defamation suits by public figures usually get tossed out of court pretty quickly.

But this one was hanging out there and, with it, so was the possibility of Goodell being brought into a deposition. The rules are broad in scope and Vilma’s attorneys could have asked Goodell about almost anything (concussions, how much money owners make, etc.).

Vilma’s attorney said the suit will continue, but I think the chances of it getting tossed out or dropped went up greatly when Tagliabue made his ruling.

But Tagliabue’s ruling in no way says the Saints were doing the right thing. It just shifted the blame even more toward coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Someone has to take the blame here and maybe Payton, Vitt, Loomis and Williams deserve it more than the players.

As I wrote back in March, the Saints are viewed by a lot of people around the league as being arrogant. A lot of people think the Saints make their own rules. I think Tagliabue's ruling only enhances the idea of a culture of arrogance within the Saints, especially the people inn the highest positions.

They broke rules repeatedly. When the league first started asking about a bounty program three years ago, the Saints denied that was happening. They kept denying it and that’s why no one has been exonerated.

The players won’t face suspensions. But Vitt already served a six-game suspension and Loomis served an eight-game suspension. Payton is suspended for the entire season and Williams is banned indefinitely.

There was wrong doing in New Orleans. The league just shifted the blame for that away from the players and toward the people at the top of the organizational flow chart.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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