Tagli­abue tosses bounty sus­pen­sions

Rul­ing al­lows both the league and the Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion to claim a vic­tory in Saints case.

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NEW OR­LEANS — Find­ing fault with nearly ev­ery­one tied to the New Or­leans Saints’ bounty case, from the coaches to Roger Good­ell, former NFL Com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue tossed out the sus­pen­sions of four play­ers Tues­day and con­demned the team for ob­struct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a sur­pris­ing re­jec­tion of his suc­ces­sor’s over­reach­ing pun­ish­ments, Tagli­abue wrote that he would “now va­cate all dis­ci­pline to be im­posed upon” two cur­rent Saints, line­backer Jonathan Vilma and de­fen­sive end Will Smith, and two play­ers no longer with the club, Browns line­backer Scott Fu­jita and free-agent de­fen­sive line­man An­thony Har­grove.

Tagli­abue es­sen­tially ab­solved Fu­jita, but did agree with Good­ell’s find­ing that the other three play­ers “en­gaged in con­duct detri­men­tal to the in­tegrity of, and pub­lic con­fi­dence in, the game of pro­fes­sional foot­ball.”

It was a rul­ing that al­lowed both sides to claim vic­tory more than nine months af­ter the league first made “Saints boun­ties” a house­hold phrase: The NFL pointed to the de­ter- mi­na­tion that Good­ell’s facts were right; the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a state­ment not­ing that Tagli­abue said “pre­vi­ously is­sued dis­ci­pline was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Vilma, sus­pended by Good­ell for the en­tire cur­rent sea­son, and Smith, sus­pended four games, have been play­ing for the Saints while their ap­peals were pend­ing. Fu­jita is on in­jured re­serve; Har-

Paul Tagli­abue agrees that three play­ers en­gaged in con­duct detri­men­tal to the league.

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