NEW YORK - Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has vacated all of the discipline against current and former Saints players accused in the bounty scandal, according to NFL Public Relations Director Greg Aiello, who put out the news on his Twitter account.
However, Tagliabue did affirm the findings of commissioner Roger Goodell that former Saint Anthony Hargrove and current Saints Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma “engaged in conduct detrimental” to the league.
CBS Sports’ web site was reporting that former Saint Scott Fujita was completely cleared in the investigation.
The NFL issued a statement shortly after Tagliabue’s findings became public: “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. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.”
The NFL, however, added that evidence still showed the team ran a bounty program. “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,” Aiello tweeted that the findings could certainly justify fines, but that the waters had been muddied by leaders - coaches and organizational staff - of the club.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees celebrated Tagliabue’s findings. “Congratulations to our players for having the suspensions vacated. Unfortunately, there are some things that can never be taken back,” Brees said on his Twitter account.