Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has finally handed down his ruling on the appeals of the four suspended players involved in the bounty scandal and has decided to vacate all penalties and suspensions.
In his ruling, Tagliabue puts most of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Saints coaches and the organization.
Here is Tagliabue's ruling, in his own words:
"Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."
And here is the official statement from the NFL, per spokesperson Greg Aiello's twitter account:
"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 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."
To be sure, this is good news. For the players at least.
But I can't help but remain pissed off at the Saints organization because what the league is really saying is that this entire mess probably could have been avoided had Saints coaches admitted to the bounty pool and cooperated with league investigators.
Whatever. I'm just glad this whole thing is finally over and I'm glad the players have been vindicated.
Now let's see all that evidence!