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Paul Tagliabue given a chance to change his legacy

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's legacy is debated every year when the Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates come up. Suddenly, Tagliabue has another chance in the spotlight to change that legacy.

Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday that he appointed Tagliabue as the hearing officer to decide the appeals of the four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty matter.

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It's such a logical move that we're almost surprised no one guessed something like this could happen. It will help, in part, to ease the players' concerns that Goodell had too much power in the bounty case. We're not lawyers, but it would appear to make it harder for the players to contest the appeal in court should Tagliabue come down with an unfavorable ruling for them.

Goodell made the decision after consulting with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.

"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. "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."

It's a fascinating spot for Tagliabue. The cynical assumption -- certainly from the players' side -- is that he'll simply approve Goodell's ruling.

"For those who think Tags will rubber stamp Goodell, forget it," longtime Associated Press writer Dave Goldberg wrote via Twitter on Friday. "Known him more than 25 years. No longer works for owners. His own man."

This unending, often unbearable bounty story hasn't had a shortage of surprising twists. Tagliabue now has a chance to author the final one -- and change the way people think about him in the process.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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