It also put the power of authority for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in question.
Current Saints‘ players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith may rejoin their team immediately and are eligible to play in Sunday’s opener against the Washington Redskins. Vilma most likely won’t play due to injury.
Linebacker Scott Fujita, a former Saint, can return to the Cleveland Browns and will likely play on Sunday. Another former Saint, Anthony Hargrove, was cut by the Green Bay Packers during the preseason and will begin looking for work again.
This ruling by the three-member appeals panel is one that may not be permanent, but does allow for an immediate impact to the teams involved. Their suspensions are not void entirely, but Goodell and the NFL will suffer considerably because of it.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell would “make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed” for violating the league’s bounty rule.
“Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend,” Aiello said.
A new decision from Goodell will be coming in the next few weeks, but not before the opening games on Sunday. Still, what does this say about the NFL Commissioner and how he handles things? It appears for now as if his governing hand has taken a huge blow and knocked him down a peg.
The panel stated that Goodell overstepped his authority in hearing the appeals of the players for their punishments due to participating in the Saints bounty program. Essentially, the panel believes that Special Master Stephen Burbank should discipline the players and not Goodell.
After years of handing down harsh punishments for illegal hits, unbecoming behavior, and troubles with the law, Goodell had become what some looked at as a hard-nosed dictator. Others saw him as doing a tremendous job at keeping the NFL players on a straight and narrow path that they may be afraid to cross.
Friday’s ruling may have a slight smile crossing their face now as they realize that Goodell isn’t as powerful as once thought.
For the first time in years, the power of Roger Goodell has been challenged and defeated. It isn’t a huge defeat as he can, and will, still levy new punishments upon the players. They won’t be as harsh as those originally dealt, but no matter what, the players have already gained a huge victory.
While this doesn’t make the Bountygate scandal go away, – as is evidenced by the still-in-place suspensions of Saints staff – it does change the dynamics of it all.
Years of negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA over the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have failed to ever make even a small wound in Goodell’s governing hand. A unanimous decision by the panel on Friday dealt a good swift kick to the gut though and will likely alter how things are done in the future.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.