A collective bargaining agreement appeals panel overturned the NFL’s suspensions of four players involved in the New Orleans Saints “bounty” program.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can still suspend the players if he proves there was intent to injure. The four players are eligible to play this Sunday.
“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,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend.”
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season, free agent Anthony Hargrove eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith four games and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fuijita three games.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Willimas, coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt were not involved in this appeals process.
The NFL Players Association supports the overturned suspensions.
“We are pleased that the appeals panel ruled unanimously to lift the players’ suspensions immediately. We will continue to vigorously protect the rights of all players.”
Will Smith plans to play Sunday in the Saints’ regular season opener.