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NFL Players' 'Bountygate' Suspensions Vacated

The four NFL players who were fined and given multi-game suspensions for their alleged parts in the New Orleans Saints' "bountygate" scheme that paid bonuses for injuring opposing players have had their punishments vacated, the league says.

According to NFL.com, "former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed to handle a second round of player appeals to the league, made the ruling." He "affirmed" the findings about the bountygate scheme, but said the cases against the players had been "contaminated":

"Unlike [the] Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects," Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league. "My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."

The players are linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, defensive lineman Will Smith and linebacker Scott Fujita. NFL.com adds that:

"The players 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. [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell then reissued them with some modifications. Meanwhile, the players have challenged the NFL's handling of the entire process in federal court."

Fujita is now with the Cleveland Browns.

Tagliabue's decision does not affect the punishments given to Saints head coach Sean Payton (one year's suspension) or former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (suspended indefinitely).

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