NEW ORLEANS — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith on Tuesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and reduced penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Though an appeal panel created by the NFL’s labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds, Goodell ruled he was sticking with his decision to suspend Vilma for the season and Smith for four games.
Hargrove, a free agent defensive lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with five games already served. Fujita, who plays for Cleveland, will now miss only one game instead of three.
The responses of Vilma, Smith and the NFL Players Association left little doubt that the seven-month-old bounty saga is far from over.
Vilma said on Twitter that the new ruling “this is not news to me pride won’t let him admit he’s wrong.” Smith issued a statement saying he will continue to explore his appeal options.
The players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone.
The players can delay their suspensions by appealing again through their labor contract, which they have three days to do. They could also ask a federal judge in New Orleans to revisit their earlier request for an injunction blocking the suspensions.
Goodell, meanwhile, stood by the substance of the investigation began when allegations were first brought to the league’s attention three seasons ago.
“The quality, specificity and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental (to the game) are far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such cases,” Goodell said in a memorandum to the 32 clubs.
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee. Cushing was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans’ 23-17 win over the New York Jets on a low block by guard Matt Slauson. Cushing walked off the field on his own, but didn’t return.
Coach Gary Kubiak said that Cushing has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will need surgery.
Coach Lovie Smith insisted wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s injury is “minor” even though he is expected to miss a few games with what several outlets reported is a broken right hand. The former South Carolina star was injured on a touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Washington released struggling kicker Billy Cundiff and replaced him with free agent Kai Forbath.
Forbath emerged as the winner in a tryout at Redskins Park. He won the Lou Groza Award with UCLA in 2009 as the top kicker in college football.