Tagliabue overturns Saints suspensions

by Leslie Turk

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturns players' suspensions; decision does not affect Payton.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in the league's bounty investigation of the club.

Tagliabue, however, found that the players' conduct was detrimental to the league. He says they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays - including hard tackles - that could justify fines.

But the former commissioner said Tuesday that "this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma initially had been suspended the whole season, while Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received shorter suspensions.

The ruling apparently means nothing for head coach Sean Payton, interim coach Joe Vitt, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, all of whom were not disciplined according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players.