Bounty suspensions overturned


NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The suspensions of Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith and former Saints players Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove have been overturned by an arbitration panel.

Jonathan Vilma tweeted this afternoon, "Victory is mine!!!!"

Shortly after the decision, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tweeted, "Congratulations to our players and the Saints organization. A 3 judge panel UNANIMOUSLY overturned the bounty suspensions for players."

The decision affects only the players and not the coaches suspended by the NFL.

Vilma, Smith, Fujita and Hargrove should all be cleared to play Sunday. Hargrove is currently not on an NFL roster.

The panel said the commissioner did not have jurisdiction to hear the players' appeals of their punishment for their roles in the Saints bounty program.

"The appeals court has vacated suspensions and the players are free to play this weekend," Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsburg said in a statement. "Jonathan has fought long and hard to obtain justice. If he can walk out on the field this weekend, it will be an extraordinary moment in his life. Hopefully everyone involved, including Commissioner Goodell, can put this behind them."

The NFL has already confirmed that Goodell will re-hear the discipline for the players based on the "pay-for-performance" status of the case, but also confirmed that the players are eligible to play beginning this weekend.

"Consistent with the panel's decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league's pay-for-performance/bounty rule," the NFL said in a statement. "Until that determination is made the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."

Gabe Feldman, Tulane Sports Law Professor, Tweeted that the case would be sent back to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a redetermination of appropriate penalties.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.