New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Photo courtesy USA TODAY Sports
(CBS Sports/AP) -- Paul Tagliabue affirmed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's findings in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, but in a stunning turn of events, vacated all player discipline.
Tagliabue did find that the players' conduct was detrimental to the league. He says they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays - including hard tackles - that could justify fines.
His bounty ruling was announced by the NFL and the former Commissioner,
filling in for Goodell after the current commish recused himself from
the appeal hearings, decided that while Goodell's findings were
factually accurate, the "entire case" was "contaminated" by the Saints
"Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct,
player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual
player misconduct in several different aspects," Tagliabue said in a
statement. "My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could
certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has
been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints'
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma initially had been suspended the whole season, while Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received shorter suspensions.