Tagliabue: Saints hindered probe
grove is not with a team.
Tagliabue, appointed by Goodell to oversee a second round of player appeals, criticized the Saints as an organization that fostered bad behavior and tried to impede the investigation into what the NFL said was a performance pool designed to knock targeted opponents out of games from 2009 to 2011, with thousands of dollars in payouts.
A “culture” that promoted tough talk and cash incentives for hits to injure opponents — one key example was Vilma’s offer of $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2009 season — existed in New Orleans, according to Tagliabue, who also wrote that “Saints’ coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation.”
The former commissioner did not entirely exonerate the players, however.
He said Vilma and Smith participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays — including hard tackles — while Hargrove, following coaches’ orders, helped to cover up the program when interviewed by NFL investigators in 2010.
“My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines,” the ruling said. “However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”
Tagliabue said he decided, in this particular case, that it was in the best interest of all parties involved to eliminate player punishment because of the enduring acrimony it has caused