NEW ORLEANS (AP) — More than nine months after the NFL first disclosed its bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints, four players will finally get a ruling on whether their initial suspensions are upheld, reduced or thrown out.
Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed to handle a second round of player appeals to the league, has informed all parties he planned to rule by Tuesday afternoon. His decision could affect whether two current Saints — linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith — get to play out the season.
If the sanctioned players find Tagliabue's decision palatable, that could finally bring the bounty saga to an end. If not, it will be up to a federal judge to either disqualify Tagliabue or let his ruling stand.
Even if Tagliabue maintains the suspensions, any punishment will be delayed a week, allowing Vilma and Smith to at least play this Sunday at home against Tampa Bay, a person familiar with the decision said.
The delay is aimed at giving U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in New Orleans time to review Tagliabue's ruling and decide if she still believes she must take the unusual step of getting involved in a collectively bargained process in order to protect the players' rights, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because no ruling had been announced.
If Vilma, Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove get the ruling they seek, it would discredit an NFL probe — overseen by Commissioner Roger Goodell — that covered three seasons and gathered about 50,000 pages of documents.
The probe concluded that Vilma and Smith were ring-leaders of a cash-for-hits program that rewarded injurious tackles labeled as "cart-offs" and "knockouts."
The NFL also concluded that Hargrove lied to NFL investigators to help cover up the program.
None of the players has served a game of their suspensions yet and have been allowed to play while appeals are pending, though Fujita is on injured reserve and Hargrove is not with a team. Shortly before the regular season, the initial suspensions were vacated by an appeal panel created by the league's collective bargaining agreement. Goodell then reissued them with some modifications. Meanwhile, the players have challenged the NFL's handling of the entire process in federal court.
Vilma received a full-season suspension, while Smith was docked four games. Hargrove initially received an eight-game suspension that was later trimmed to seven games, but for practical purposes, was reduced to two games because he was given credit for five games he missed as a free agent after being cut by Green Bay before the regular-season opener. Fujita had his initial suspension reduced from three games to one, with the league saying that he failed in his duty as a defensive leader in 2009 to discourage the bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Goodell also suspended Williams indefinitely, while banning Saints head coach Sean Payton for a full season.
Tagliabue's ruling comes after a new round of hearings that for the first time allowed Vilma's attorneys and the NFL Players Association, which represents the other three players, to cross-examine key NFL witnesses in the probe. Those witnesses included Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo, who was fired after the 2009 season and whose email to the league, accusing the Saints of being "a dirty organization," jump-started the probe.
Also for the first time, the NFL allowed players' attorneys to review all of the documents the NFL had collected, including some in which people stated that the players never did what they were accused of, the person who spoke with AP said.
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
JUNE 18 Here's a fairly absurd column posted on DIG Magazine about the completely absurd practice of naming killer storms. Tornadoes don't have names. Blizzards don't have names. But hurricanes do, and there's a big process to bestow them, Jacques Cormery writes. He's right about the crazy assemblage of names -- this year, there's everything from Tanya to Humberto -- and his idea that we don't waste good names on killer storms is a good one.
JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.