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Roger Goodell upholds suspensions for Saints players in bounty scandal

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Not breaking news: Goodell upheld the suspensions he originally imposed for Vilma and other Saints. (Getty Images)

Roger Goodell ruled to uphold the suspensions of the former and/or current Saints -- Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith -- involved in the bounty scandal, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reported Tuesday.

The NFL later announced that the commissioner had upheld the suspensions, releasing part of Goodell's letter to the players in a press release.

“Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions," Goodell said in a letter to the players. "Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process. Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,' your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal.

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"Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental' determinations."

That this news was announced at 4 p.m. ET the day before the Fourth of July could be perceived as the league attempting to bury the news of the appeals. But it's hardly surprising to anyone that Goodell decided to shrug off the Saints appeals.

This is especially true given the way in which the Saints appealed. That's not to say that they didn't attempt to exercise due process, but with the way the CBA is written, they faced an uphill climb. When they attempted to climb that hill, through the legal process, it probably didn't sit too well with the commish (see: his letter).

"In sum, I did not make my determinations here lightly," Goodell wrote. "At every stage, I took seriously my responsibilities under the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

Interestingly, Goodell informed the players that they still have an opportunity to reduce their suspensions.

"While this decision constitutes my final and binding determination under the CBA, I of course retain the inherent authority to reduce a suspension should facts be brought to my attention warranting the exercise of that discretion," Goodell wrote. "The record confirms that each of you was given multiple chances to meet with me to present your side of the story. You are each still welcome to do so."

Given the way the Saints have proceeded thus far, it seems highly unlikely that the players will take Goodell up on his offer. But that won't stop them from attempting to puruse other venues, such as the courtroom.

UPDATE (4:39 p.m. ET):

Here's what the NFLPA had to say in regards to Goodell's decision, releasing a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"The players are disappointed with the League's conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the Commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.

"The NFLPA has never and will never condone dangerous or reckless conduct in football and to date, nothing the League has provided proves these players were participants in a pay-to-injure program. We will continue to pursue all options."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

 
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