For now, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma can suit up and play in the NFL. An appeals panel of three rescinded the three players’ suspensions along with that of Anthony Hargrove a free agent, who remains unsigned, due to their alleged roles in the bounty scandal with the New Orleans.
The league then reinstated the players immediately. Smith is still with the Saints, while Fujita plays with the Cleveland Browns. Both will most likely appear in the season openers for both teams on Sunday. Vilma will rejoin the Saints and be paid, but is not physically able to play due to a knee injury. Hargrove is now able to talk to teams in the NFL about signing him, after the Green Bay Packers released him.
However, it is unknown how long the players will be reinstated. The ruling comes just two days prior to the first full weekend of the 2012-13 NFL season and is a setback for Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner. Even though the players can now return to play, the decision does not void the suspensions permanently. A spokesman for the NFL said that Commissioner Goodell would make a determination quickly, as to the discipline imposed on the players for violating league rules.
The recent ruling did not affect in any way the status of Saints Head Coach Sean Payton who is suspended for the season.
The merits of the bounty investigation by the NFL were not addressed by the panel. However, it found that the Commissioner had overstepped his authority in player’s appeals of the punishment handed down for the bounty program.