Bounty Suspensions Overturned For Saints, NFL Players
The Who Dat Nation has an extra reason to be excited as we go into this weekend. Not only are the Saints opening the 2012 season at home against the Washington Redskins on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but WWL New Orleans is reporting that a three member arbitration panel has vacated the suspensions of NFL players Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Vilma took to Twitter immediately after the news broke via social media.
“Victory is mine!”
The four NFL players were suspended for their alleged participation in what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell labeled as a “bounty program.” A three-member arbitration panel heard arguments in the NFLPA’s appeal of a ruling that Commissioner Goodell had the authority to both punish the players, and hear their appeals. The union argued that since the alleged events took place on the field, the league’s labor agreement calls for someone else other than Goodell to hear the player’s appeals on the bounty issue.
Vilma, Smith, and former New Orleans Saints players Hargrove and Fujita have admitted to participating in a pay-for-performance system for big plays like defensive turnovers and big (clean) hits, but have sworn (some under oath) that a pay-for-injury program never even existed. Even though the pay-for-performance system is banned, it cannot be punished by suspensions.
As far as what this means for the Saints going into the 2012 regular season this weekend, Will Smith has been cleared to play, as Vilma continues to nurse a knee injury that should have him sidelined for a few more weeks.