Four NFL players were suspended by the league for their roles in the New Orleans Saints’ Bountygate scandal, but their suspensions were just overturned by an internal appeals panel — meaning that all four could potentially see the field in Week 1.
The penalties issued to Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith of the Saints, Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns, and free agent Anthony Hargrove have been voided, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can only issue further punishment if there’s proof of wrongdoing beyond the performance pool.
The NFL issued this statement to BuzzFeed: “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. Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend.”
(Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter first reported the news.)
Saints head coach Sean Payton (full season) and general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (indefinitely) remain suspended. But depending on their readiness, all four players are cleared to go for this weekend. Vilma is dealing with knee issues, though Pro Football Talk reports that he could do whatever it takes to participate in at least a couple snaps as a gesture against the league. PFT also says that Smith, a defensive end, is likely to play, while Fujita is not.
Regardless of whether he shows up on Sunday, Vilma has already issued one message, which he put out through Twitter: