Vilma And Friends Back In The NFL: Bounty Suspension Lifted
The suspensions of those players, plus unsigned free agent Anthony Hargrove, for their roles in New Orleans’ pay-for-pain bounty scandal were lifted Friday by a three-member appeals panel.
The league reinstated them all a few minutes later.
The Saints’ Smith and Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, probably will play in Sunday’s season openers. Vilma can at least rejoin teammates and coaches in New Orleans – and get paid – even if the linebacker is not yet ready to play because of knee problems.
And Hargrove can start talking to NFL teams about giving him another shot, after he was cut by the Green Bay Packers.
Still, there’s no telling how long the reprieve will last.
Coming just two days before the first full slate of NFL games this season, the ruling is a setback for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league. But while the decision allows the players to rejoin their teams, it does not permanently void their suspensions.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell would “make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed” for violating the league’s bounty rule.
“Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend,” Aiello said.
Vilma, who had been suspended the whole season, tweeted: “Victory is mine!!!! -stewie griffin”
Added Fujita: “I’m overwhelmed with all the support. Thank you so much everyone. Can’t tell you how much it means to me.”