Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s tweet said it all.
“Victrory is mine!!! — stewie griffin…”
Friday afternoon the Burbank appeals panel threw out the suspensions of four NFL players that were facing suspension for their roles in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. More importunately the NFL released a statement that said they would be following the panel’s decision.
"Consistent with the panel's decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league's pay-for-performance/bounty rule," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."
The decision simply makes defensive end Will Smith, linebacker Jonathan Vilama, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove can play this week of the teams see fit. Vilma was originally suspended for the season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith for four games, and Scott Fujita three games.
Will Smith played in the final preseason game for the Saints against the Titans as he and the team expected it would be the last action he would see in a month. Thursday acting Saints head coach Aaron Kromer was asked hypothetically if Smith could be ready to play if a ruling came down in his favor. Due to the suspension he has not been able to practice or be with the team since Monday.
“Will’s practiced so much in this defense,” Kromer said, “I believe you could get him up to speed in a day. Obviously, he would be behind on some of the game planning. As far as knowing what the calls are on defense and what he needed to do, I’m sure he could handle it.”
Vilma is still not healthy and likely will be put on the physically unable to perform list or PUP as it is often referred to.
The issue is not dead however because the case has been remanded back to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The panel feels that Goodell can rule on conduct issues, but that a system arbitrator is supposed to rule on salary cap issues. The Commissioner still has the right to punish the players but no decision will be made it appears before this weekend's games.
One big win for the players is that if they are put on rosters once the season begins, their salaries are guaranteed.
Does this ruling effect head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis? Simply put, no. The players have the Collective Bargaining Agreement and players unions while the coaches do not.
Regardless this is a huge win for the players and also is the first time that the commissioner’s authority has ever been questioned.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees prior to the start of the preseason strongly voiced his displeasure with Goodell’s ruling and investigation of the bounty scandal. Friday afternoon his comments to ESPN’s Ed Werder makes you feel he knew what he was talking about. "I think it is an extremely strong statement that a three-judge panel unanimously ruled to lift the suspensions," said Brees. "It makes you feel like they took a very hard look at all the evidence there and saw that we were in the right. ... Today makes you feel like justice has been served."
FINAL INJURY REPORT
Five players were listed on the Saints final injury report as they head into the regular season opener Sunday. Wide receiver Marques Colston (foot), linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle), linebacker David Hawthorne (knee), cornerback Jabari Greer (groin) and wide receiver Adrian Arrington (knee) were all deemed questionable against the Redskins.
Arrington was the only one listed on the report to miss practice on Friday, making it the second straight day he could not work due to soreness in his knee.
Rookie tackle Marcel Jones hurt his knee late in practice on Wednesday, did not practice Thursday and Friday. He has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.