League commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith on Tuesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal and reduced penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
NEW ORLEANS — League commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith on Tuesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal and reduced penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Though an appeal panel created by the league’s labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds, Goodell ruled he was sticking with his decision to suspend Vilma for the season and Smith for four games.
Hargrove, a free-agent defensive lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with five games already served. Fujita, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, will miss one game instead of three.
The responses of Vilma, Smith and the NFL Players Association indicated the 7-month-old bounty saga is far from over.
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Vilma said on Twitter that the new ruling “is not news to me pride won’t let him admit he’s wrong.” Smith issued a statement saying he will continue to explore his appeal options.
Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said in a statement Goodell’s new ruling “continues his previous grossly misplaced interpretation of the ‘evidence.’ What the Commissioner did today is not justice, nor just. The suspension has the fingerprints of lawyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
The players were implicated in what league officials said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone.
The players can delay their suspensions by appealing again through their labor contract, which they have three days to do. They could also ask a federal judge in New Orleans to revisit their earlier request for an injunction blocking the suspensions.
Goodell, meanwhile, stood by the substance of the investigation that started when allegations were first brought to the league’s attention three seasons ago.
“The quality, specificity and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental (to the game) are far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such cases,” Goodell said in a memorandum to the 32 teams.
The NFLPA also remained critical of Goodell’s decision to punish the players and the process by which he reached his decisions.
“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 union said in a written statement. “The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process.”
Texans’ Cushing is out for season
HOUSTON — Linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left-knee ligament, leaving the unbeaten Houston Texans without their top tackler and one of their emotional leaders.
Cushing was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans’ 23-17 victory over the New York Jets on Monday on a low block by guard Matt Slauson. Cushing walked off the field on his own, but didn’t return.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Cushing, 25, will need surgery in two to three weeks, after the swelling subsides. Cushing was leading Houston (5-0) in tackles (38) entering Monday’s game.
“A big blow for our team,” Kubiak said. “We have to have guys pick it up around him and we’ve got to find a way to move forward.
“We’re all just disappointed for him. It’s a tough day for him.”
• Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is expected to participate in the Washington Redskins’ practice on Wednesday, a person familiar with the situation said.
Ex-Baylor standout Griffin, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and the second player drafted this year, has been given clearance to participate in the practice, barring a setback, the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter publicly.
“He will practice tomorrow,” the person said, adding Griffin will not be subject to any contact during the session.