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NFL reaffirms player suspensions in Saints' bounty case

  • By NFL.com
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the suspensions Tuesday that he originally issued on the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.

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Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma remains suspended for the season but will retain the game checks he received while on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Defensive end Will Smith remains suspended for four games.

Former Saint and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita's suspension was reduced from three games to one. Free agent defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove saw his suspension cut down from eight games to seven. But he only will serve a two-game suspension if signed by a club after receiving credit for the five games he already has missed this season.

The NFL Players Association said it would consider its options after looking closely at the NFL's punishments.

"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 NFLPA wrote in a release. "The only evidence that exists is the League's gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league's refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake.

"We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players' rights with vigilance."

Goodell's original suspensions to the players were overturned on appeal last month, immediately reinstating the players' eligibility for the 2012 season.

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"In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story," Goodell wrote to NFL teams in a memorandum, according to the release. "In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for 'cart-offs,' that players were encouraged to 'crank up the John Deere tractor' and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play."

The league-imposed suspensions were issued after the NFL determined the players violated Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement for "conduct detrimental to the integrity and public confidence in the NFL."

Fujita has played in four games for the Browns this season, and Smith has appeared in five games with the Saints. The NFL told NFL Network and NFL.com's Albert Breer that Fujita will be allowed to practice with the Browns during the 72-hour window he has to decide whether or not to appeal the decision.

Smith released a statement Tuesday, denying he participated in a pay-to-injure program and saying he is "frustrated with the continued unilateral rulings by this commissioner as he continues to disregard the facts and assault my character."

Vilma hasn't played for the Saints this season because of a knee injury, and Hargrove remains a free agent after being released by the Green Bay Packers in August.

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