The New Orleans Saints players who were suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of the team’s Bounty Incentive Program will have their penalties upheld, after Stephen Burbank rejected the grievance filed by the NFLPA. Burbank reaffirmed Goodell’s decision to suspend the four players involved in the bounty program orchestrated by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
That means that the season long suspension handed out to Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and four game suspension given to Saints defensive end Will Smith will stand. As will the eight game suspension of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and three game suspension of Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who were both members of the Saints and identified as key participants during the bounty program from 2009-2011.
“System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld the commissioner’s authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to impose “conduct detrimental” discipline on players who provided or offered to provide financial incentives to injure opponents,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement to NFL.com. “He also upheld the commissioner’s authority to impose such discipline against players who obstructed a league investigation.
The System Arbitrator thus confirmed the commissioner’s authority to suspend Mr. Fujita, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vilma. He invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation.”
The bottom line is that despite what players may feel, Goodell has the ability to do what he feels is best for the league. I hope Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon is paying attention to what just happened. His phone may be ringing very shortly.