Roger Goodell is not backing down.
Despite the fact that his original suspensions of the four New Orleans Saints players involved in the so-called "Bountygate" scandal were reversed by an NFL appeals committee, the commissioner on Tuesday decided once more to punish the four players--linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns), defensive end Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers), linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith.
Fujita saw his penalty reduced to just a one-game suspension, and Hargrove's penalty was reduced from eight games to seven. But Goodell upheld the original punishments levied against Vilma and Smith.
In a memo sent to all NFL teams, Goodell explained that he kept the punishments in place because, quite simply, there was too much evidence indicating that the Saints players did, in fact, take part in the bounty scheme.
Said Goodell: "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."
Not surprisingly, the NFL Players Association backed the players and blasted the commissioner.
"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 said in a statement. "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."
The NFLPA said it would "review all options" regarding the penalties. - Tim Hyland
Photo: Getty Images