Tagli­abue: Saints hin­dered probe

Boun­ties

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - C

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

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