NFL Nation: Saints Bounty

NEW ORLEANS -- The bounty scandal is pretty much over, but details continue to emerge.

The Times-Picayune obtained a copy of New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt’s testimony before appeals officer and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in December and it contains some details that haven’t been reported before. Vitt testified that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered rewards for players if they injured assistant coaches from other teams when making plays near the sideline.

But Vitt said players never followed through on that. Much of his testimony indicated Williams acted with a lot of bravado and players didn’t take what he said seriously.

“If our players went out and performed what came out of Gregg Williams' mouth, and it went from his lips to their ears, and then it went to the performance, we would have people in jail right now ma'am," Vitt said to an NFL attorney. "We would have people in jail right now."

Vitt’s testimony also called into question the credibility of former New Orleans assistant Mike Cerullo, who was one of the league’s witnesses. Vitt said coach Sean Payton once asked for police protection for his family while he was out of town because he considered Cerullo a threat.

Only fans innocent in Saints' scandal

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
6:55
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.
I just finished reading the entire order by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue that vacated player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints bounty matter.

Tagliabue’s ruling is very lengthy (22 pages), so if you don’t have time to read it all, let me summarize it and provide some highlights.

First off, Tagliabue makes it abundantly clear on repeated occasions that he found current commissioner Roger Goodell’s findings that the Saints ran a three-year bounty program to be accurate. Tagliabue said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and former New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove engaged in conduct detrimental to the game, although he ruled that former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita did not take part in detrimental conduct.

Tagliabue criticized the behavior of New Orleans players that took part in the bounty program, but, as I read the ruling, it became very clear that he’s shifting most of the blame to coaches and the front office.

The biggest theme I saw as I went through the document was Tagliabue pointing to the behavior of coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and general manager Mickey Loomis as being way out of bounds.

Below are some excerpts where Tagliabue addresses that theme:
  • “The Program eventually led to allegations of a bounty being placed on (former Minnesota quarterback Brett) Favre. Making matters far more serious -- as well as challenging for Commissioner Goodell and League investigators -- Saints’ coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation into the Program and the alleged bounty.’’
  • “These suspensions thus deprived the Saints of vitally important coaching and leadership talent, and they represented a severe competitive penalty for the Saints’ team, its fans and indirectly for the New Orleans / Gulf Coast region. Commissioner Goodell’s findings and the resulting suspensions of these Saints’ personnel are final and no longer subject to appeal.’’
  • “There is evidence in the record that suggests that Commissioner Goodell could have disciplined a greater number of Saints’ players for the events that occurred here. This sad chapter in the otherwise praiseworthy history of the New Orleans Saints casts no executive, coach or player in a favorable light.
  • “It is important to note that Commissioner Goodell has been forced to address the issues of misconduct by some individuals in the Saints’ organization since early 2010 to the present. Due to the indefensible obstruction of justice by Saints’ personnel, which included admitted efforts of coaches to mislead or otherwise deny the existence of a bounty or the Program, a disciplinary process that should have taken weeks is verging on three years."
  • “Vitt admitted to NFL investigators in 2012 that he “fabricated the truth” when he spoke to an NFL investigator in March 2010 about whether there had been a bounty on Favre. He later claimed that his admitted fabrication was just “stretching the truth” because he failed to describe for investigators the emotionalism of the defensive team meeting the night before the NFC Championship Game."
  • “There is no question that Coach Williams and other coaches orchestrated the Program to incentivize cart-offs and knockouts; carefully choreographed defensive team meetings, including presenting graphic slide presentations showing injuries to opposing players; ensured that any player who would speak at team meetings was adequately prepared or supported; and generally created an atmosphere in the 2009 season and playoffs that suggested to Saints’ players that offering a $10,000 bounty to injure an opposing player was permissible behavior."

Call It: Was Tagliabue right or wrong?

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
3:46
PM ET
By now, we know that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, acting as an appeals officer, vacated all player discipline in the New Orleans Saints bounty case.

SportsNation

Do you agree with Paul Tagliabue's decision to vacate all player suspensions in the Saints' bounty case?

  •  
    61%
  •  
    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 173,610)

As I wrote earlier, this comes across as convoluted because Tagliabue also said he found the fact finding of current commissioner Roger Goodell to be correct and the Saints did run a three-year bounty program. But mixed messages like that often happen when you get lawyers involved and people are worried about covering every angle.

But let’s boil this whole thing down to one simple question and let’s put the answer in your hands: Did Tagliabue make the right call?

Look to your right and cast your vote in our SportsNation poll. Then, share your logic in the comments section below.

Following the money in bounty saga

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
3:13
PM ET
I’ve been in contact with ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt ever since the news came out that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case.

The one thing Brandt repeatedly has said is that the players continued to get their paychecks throughout the process. That’s significant because we’re talking about a huge amount of money for the two guys -- linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith -- that still are playing for the Saints.

Vilma previously faced a full-season suspension and Smith initially was supposed to be suspended for four games.

Let’s start with Vilma, who opened the season on the physically unable to perform list, but has been paid all throughout the appeals process. Vilma got a $1 million signing bonus when he restructured his contract back in March. Tagliabue’s ruling also clears the way for Vilma to earn his full $1.6 million base salary this season. Vilma already received a $100,000 workout bonus and $600,000 roster bonus before the season ever started. Vilma’s contract also has a clause that could allow him to earn up to $2.2 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives that are tied to the number of games he’s been on the active roster and his playing time. We’re not sure of the details of the clause, but Vilma did miss the first five games of the season.

Smith also restructured his contract back in March and received a $6.175 million signing bonus. He now will get to make his full $825,000 base salary this season. Smith already received a $1 million roster bonus and a $150,000 workout bonus in the preseason.

NFL walks away from Saints fight

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
2:54
PM ET
Jonathan VilmaDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireJonathan Vilma and other players implicated in the Saints bounty scandal have had their penalties overturned by Paul Tagliabue.
Let me get this straight.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has found that current commissioner Roger Goodell was spot on in his finding of facts in the New Orleans Saints bounty saga? But Tagliabue has vacated all player discipline?

That’s more than a little contradictory. In fact, it’s ridiculous.

Tagliabue is agreeing with Goodell that the Saints ran a bounty program for three years, but Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita no longer are facing suspensions.

Heck, they probably won't even face fines, unless Goodell oversteps Tagliabue -- but I think Goodell is planning on staying in his own lane now.

“My affirmation of commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines,’’ Tagliabue said in part of his statement. “However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization.’’

Sounds to me like Tagliabue and the NFL are taking the easy way out of this one. They’re pointing their fingers squarely at coach Sean Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt.

There’s one huge difference between the coaches and general manager and the four players: The players are represented by the NFL Players Association, which challenged every step of the process, even though you could make a case that the union was siding with the best interest of four players over the safety of hundreds of others.

The NFLPA appealed every decision, and it ultimately won. Vilma doesn’t have to face a season-long suspension. Smith doesn’t have to miss eight games. Hargrove, who is currently out of the league, doesn’t face a seven-game suspension. Fujita, who might have suffered a career-ending injury this season, doesn’t face a one-game suspension.

The league still is saying the players did what the league alleged from the start, and Tagliabue’s statement reiterates that he found convincing evidence that there was a bounty on Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game of the 2009 season.

But the players aren’t getting suspended, they’re not losing paychecks and they’re not getting fined. They’re getting off pretty much free, except for whatever damage was done to their reputations by this whole sordid saga.

That damage was significant, and we might not have heard the last of it on that front. Vilma still has a defamation lawsuit against Goodell. If I’m Vilma, I’m not dropping that lawsuit.

Vilma has shown that you can take on what was supposed to be an almighty commissioner and win. It’s hard to win a defamation lawsuit because you have to prove intent to put out statements you knew were untrue, but Vilma is on a roll, so why not continue pursuing it?

Vilma’s attorney, Peter R. Ginsberg, already has said the defamation suit isn’t going away.

“We are obviously relieved and gratified that Jonathan no longer needs to worry about facing an unjustified suspension,’’ Ginsberg said in a statement. “On the other hand, commissioner Tagliabue's rationalization of commissioner Goodell's actions does nothing to rectify the harm done by the baseless allegations lodged against Jonathan. Jonathan has a right and every intention to pursue proving what really occurred and we look forward to returning to a public forum where the true facts can see the light of day.’’

Maybe Vilma can get the NFL to keep backtracking and say there was no bounty on Favre, because it sure looks like the league doesn’t want to fight anymore.

Apparently, the league’s approach now is to just blame it all on Loomis, who already has served an eight-game suspension, and Vitt, who already has served a six-game suspension. And put even more blame on Payton, who is serving a season-long suspension, and Williams, who is banned indefinitely.

Those four are the easy targets because they exhausted their appeals long ago. The only option they had was to appeal their decision to one judge. That was Goodell, back in the spring, and he upheld his own punishments and the clock on those suspensions started ticking.

But the hands of the clock on player punishments were tied up by constant appeals and Vilma’s lawsuit.

Makes you wonder whether Payton, Loomis, Vitt and Williams might have taken a different tack if they knew in the spring what they know now.

There’s no absolute vindication for anyone because Tagliabue and the league still are saying the Saints ran a bounty program.

But one group of the alleged culprits is walking away without any punishment, and the other already has served or is serving its punishment.

That’s because the players fought it and, in the end, Tagliabue grabbed the NFL by its shoulders and pulled the league out of the fight.


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.
video
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from hearing the appeals of player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty saga.

I’d say that’s at least a momentary victory for Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.

The players had been asking Goodell to recuse himself and claiming that he is biased and wouldn’t be able to give them a fair hearing on their appeals. I think this also could set a precedent that might limit Goodell’s power to be the sole judge and jury in player discipline. That’s something players fought for, but didn’t get, in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. This doesn't help Goodell's public image, especially on the same day that former Minnesota defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy accused the commissioner of being a liar for saying Kennedy was a "whistleblower'' on the bounty program.

Goodell said he has appointed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals.

That brings the question of if the appeals really can be fair. Goodell worked for Tagliabue for years and the two are close. When Tagliabue retired, Goodell had his blessing to be the successor.

“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,’’ Goodell said in a statement. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”

Tagliabue will hear the appeals Oct. 30.

At the very least, getting a fresh set of eyes and ears on the appeals at least gives the appearance that the players are getting a fair shake. At most, it might convince federal judge Ginger Berrigan, who has implied she thinks that Vilma’s suspension was too harsh, that this case could go beyond Goodell’s jurisdiction and into her jurisdiction.

There still are likely to be a lot of twists and turns in this saga, but I'd say right now things have swung in favor of the players.
The NFL's explanation for how it learned of the New Orleans Saints alleged bounty program goes like this: Former Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove told former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy about it at some point near the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Kennedy told Vikings coach Brad Childress, and Childress reported it to the league.

Friday, Kennedy denied his role as the bounty whistleblower and said the NFL has distributed "blatant lies about me." In a statement released by the NFL Players Association, Kennedy said: "Coach Childress approached me and asked me if I knew anything about such an allegation, and I told him the truth: I did not. I had no knowledge of any such alleged bounty."

Further, Kennedy said it is "an utter lie" to suggest Hargrove told him about the bounty. Kennedy: "It simply never happened. I never discussed an alleged bounty with Anthony Hargrove before, during or after the NFC Championship Game. The only discussion I have had with Anthony about the alleged bounty occurred when we recently spoke about the NFL’s egregiously flawed and unjust investigation and proceeding."

I've had plenty to say about the NFL's investigation of the bounty program, especially as it related to Hargrove during the time he spent with the Green Bay Packers. To be blunt, much of it doesn't pass the smell test. (Many of those posts can be found in this link.)

Hargrove and Kennedy have now both denied the NFL's claims on how Childress became convinced there was a bounty; Childress hasn't commented to my knowledge. And as we've discussed, the evidence the NFL presented against Hargrove has either been debunked or substantially discredited.

We all know the NFL didn't have to meet a legal standard in order to make these accusations and distribute discipline. And part of the language in Kennedy's statement no doubt is setting up the inevitable legal battle that is only beginning. But I agree with one sentiment in the statement from Kennedy, who said he is now among "the list of men whose reputations and character have been irreparably damaged by the shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation behind this sham proceeding."

That language might be a bit over the top, but careers have been altered and lives changed forever as a result of this bounty investigation. To this point, it's difficult to say that impact has been merited.
In a memo to all 32 NFL teams announcing the revised punishment from the alleged three-year bounty program run by the New Orleans Saints, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell revealed a significant detail about a 2010 game with Carolina.

In a previous memo, Goodell wrote that the Saints had a bounty on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton last season. In a section of this letter, Goodell details how the Saints rewarded defensive players for injuring opponents.

He referred to a 2010 game in which the New Orleans defense was commended for three “cart-offs’’ and one player placed on injured reserve.

“In that game,’’ Goodell wrote. “Three Carolina players were seriously injured: running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton, who were literally carted off the field with a head/neck and ankle injury, respectively, and quarterback Matt Moore, who was later placed on injured reserve, unable to return for the remainder of the season, with a torn labrum. These all satisfied (defensive coordinator Gregg) Williams’ definition of cart-offs: ‘big hits that resulted in an opposing player leaving the game due to the hit."

The Panthers are on bye this week, so it’s a little difficult to track down people for reaction. But, when the bounty on Newton was first revealed, I can tell you that some high-ranking team officials were not very pleased with the Saints.

Goodell's letter to Jonathan Vilma

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
5:45
PM ET
We already shared with you part of a letter from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, explaining the decision to uphold his four-game suspension.

Goodell also decided to uphold the season-long suspension of New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, although Vilma will be allowed to keep his weekly checks for six weeks on the physically unable to perform list.

Goodell’s letter to Vilma is much longer than the one he sent to Smith, so I’ll do my best to trim it up and include the most important items.

Here’s some of what Goodell wrote to Vilma:
“You confirmed that cart-offs and knockouts were part of a broader program in place among the Saints’ defensive players. You confirmed that these terms referred to plays in which an opposing player has to leave the game for one or more plays. You confirmed that, as (assistant head coach Joe) Vitt testified, an opposing player’s need for smelling salts under a trainer’s care was a consequence of the kind that the program sought to achieve and for which players were offered cash rewards from the incentive pool.’’

Goodell also went into detail and said a bounty system was in place during the playoffs at the end of the 2009 season.
“I also find that you engaged in conduct detrimental by offering a substantial financial incentive to any member of the defensive unit who knocked Brett Favre out of the Saints’ 2009 NFC playoff game against the Vikings.’’

Goodell also wrote that there was credible evidence Vilma made a similar pledge about Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, but said he didn’t need to go into further detail because he already had evidence of one pledge of a reward to hurt an opponent.

Many New Orleans fans have labeled former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely, and former assistant coach Mike Cerullo, as "snitches,'' although maybe they were simply telling the truth. Goodell acknowledged both men provided details of the bounty program and said he found their versions credible.
“I am not persuaded by any suggestion that either Mr. Williams or Mr. Cerullo had an incentive to testify falsely, under penalty of perjury, about such conduct by you or by any other player. With respect to Coach Williams, you and he have repeatedly spoken highly of each other, and nobody has identified any reason why he would make false charges against the Saints or you in particular. In that respect, it is telling that even though he had already left the Saints and signed a contract to be the defensive coordinator for the Rams, coach Williams continued to deny the existence of the program in its entirety, and acknowledged the program and his role in it only after detailed questioning by our investigators. Equally important, neither Mr. Williams nor Mr. Cerullo was made aware of the substance of the information provided by the other in the investigation; as one example, each independently volunteered to investigators that the bounty that you pledged with respect to Mr. Favre was in the specific amount of $10,000.’’

Aside from the statements from Williams and Cerullo, Goodell also said others, including Vitt, former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, talked about a meeting in which things got “out of hand’’ and pledges were made for big plays.
“Those statements support the written declarations, made under penalty of perjury, by Coach Williams and Mr. Cerullo about the events of that evening. In contrast, your statement that nothing out of the ordinary happened and that no pledges were made by anyone at that meeting is inconsistent with the information provided by other players and is simply not persuasive.

“I find, based on all of these facts and the entire record described above, that you did, in fact, pledge money to any teammate who injured or disabled Mr. Favre to an extent that he would not be able to continue playing in the playoff game. I recognize that you and some of your teammates have denied that you made such a pledge or claim not to recall your doing so, but I am persuaded, based on the entirety of the record before me, that you did so. And I find that such a pledge or any similar incentive is conduct detrimental.”
The NFL has announced that the four-game suspension for New Orleans defensive end Will Smith has been reinstated.

The league also provided part of a letter from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, explaining why he chose to stick with the initial punishment.

Here’s an excerpt of Goodell’s letter to Smith, provided by the NFL:

“At our meeting in September, you confirmed that you expressed approval of the program when it was first presented to you by (defensive coordinator Gregg 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. Even in the face of repeated appeals to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor and cart the guy off,’ you and others now claim that the objective was instead merely to ‘knock the wind out’ of your opponents, requiring them to leave the game for only a play or two. From the standpoint of player safety, fair competition, and the integrity of the game, the issues with which I am concerned today, this kind of after-the-fact explanation is little more than wordplay that, in my judgment as Commissioner, offers no basis on which to excuse conduct that does not belong in professional football. Such behavior is conduct detrimental without regard to the precise extent or duration of the disability intended.’’

I know a lot of New Orleans fans have been screaming for evidence. I think you’ve got it right there. Smith confirmed he approved of the bounty program and helped fund it.

Just when it seemed things were starting to look up for the New Orleans Saints, the franchise got another big blow.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports the initial season-long suspension for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and four-game suspension for defensive end Will Smith, which had been put on temporary hold just before the start of the regular season, have been put back in place. The only change for the current Saints is that Vilma will be able to keep his game checks while on the physically unable to perform list for the first six games of the season.

The other changes are for former New Orleans players Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) and Anthony Hargrove (out of the league). Fujita’s suspension has been reduced from three games to one game. Hargrove’s eight-game suspension has been lightened to seven games.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was asked by an appeals board to review his disciplinary decisions to make sure they weren’t related to the salary cap, came back with a firm ruling that the suspensions were due to conduct detrimental to the game.

I wouldn’t have expected any other result from Goodell, who has dug in his heels firmly since the NFL announced March 2 that it had found the Saints were running a three-year bounty program.

Goodell has an entire league to protect and the suggestion he let a bounty program go with little or no punishment could be disastrous to the NFL as it faces thousands of concussion lawsuits. Goodell made a strong statement once and he did it again Tuesday.

Goodell previously suspended coach Sean Payton for the entire season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also was suspended indefinitely. Other than an appeal to Goodell, there was nothing Payton, Loomis and Vitt could do because they didn’t fall under the umbrella of the NFL Players Association.

The NFLPA went all out to protect the players, appealing the suspensions and helping to get a temporary restraining order. Vilma’s attorney also helped tie things up by filing a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.

But Goodell apparently has weathered the storm and I have no doubt he met extensively with his legal team before reinstating the suspensions.

I’m sure it’s possible (probably likely) more appeals could be filed and this thing could drag on longer. But at this point, why?

The season is approaching the halfway point and it already has been ruined for the Saints. Even with Smith, they went 1-4. Even if Vilma’s suspension were lifted, there’s no guarantee he would be healthy enough to come off the physically unable to perform list this season.

Vitt and Loomis are almost finished with their suspensions. Payton is approaching the halfway point of his. Smith should just accept the suspension and serve his four games. Vilma should just sit for the rest of the season.

The Saints don’t need the bounty drama hanging over them any longer. This is a way to get it all over with.

Take the punishment and let everyone come back next year with a fresh start.
Huddle up again because, for the second time, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce player punishments in the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports an announcement is coming momentarily. Goodell initially issued suspensions for four players, but the punishments were set aside momentarily while an appeals board asked the commissioner to look at his decision again.

As soon as I get the official announcement, I'll be back with analysis.

Video: Jonathan Vilma meets with Goodell

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
7:35
PM ET

Ed Werder recaps Jonathan Vilma's meeting Monday with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider