According to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ended up vacating the player suspensions from the Saints bounty scandal was because everything was dragging on too long.
“We were going to be litigating into 2013 and right into 2014,” Tagliabue said. “Rather than keeping the focus on getting the 32 teams, the 5,000 players to focus on player safety, you’d spend half a decade in litigation. That wasn’t really going to help very much of anything. This thing became an impediment to progress.”
Asked if his ruling should be viewed as a rebuke of Goodell, Tagliabue said, “Absolutely not. To make it clear, I was completely supporting Roger, to the frustration of some of those involved (with the team).”
The original NFL investigation found that Vilma and Smith were the leaders of a pay-to-injure program that rewarded teammates for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of opposing players during games in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. The NFL charged that Vilma offered a $10,000 bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game. The league also determined that Hargrove lied to NFL investigators to help cover up the program.
While saying that three players “engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in” football, Tagliabue placed the responsibility for the program squarely on the coaches and administrators who fostered it and administered it. He cited the “broad organizational misconduct” of the Saints organization and a “deliberate, unprecedented, and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation.”
“There was the evidence – the slides and power points – clearly showing coaches encouraging players to reward each other and incentivize them for injuring players,” Tagliabue said. “There is no doubt that existed. Just look at the power point slides. Do we keep arguing about the facts?
“It was just the wrong culture being (fostered) by the coaches. It was clearly a violation of the league’s policy.”