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 if 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.
Vilma said on Twitter that “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.
Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said in a statement that Goodell’s new ruling “continues his previous grossly misplaced interpretation of the ‘evidence.’ What the commissioner did today is not justice, nor just. The suspension has the fingerprints of lawyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
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.
TEXANS’ CUSHING DONE FOR SEASON
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left knee ligament, leaving the Texans without their top tackler and one of their emotional leaders.
Cushing was hurt Monday in the second quarter of the Texans’ 23-17 win over the New York Jets on a low block by guard Matt Slauson.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak said Cushing has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will need surgery.
“A big blow for our team,” Kubiak said.
A first-round draft pick out of USC in 2009, Cushing was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year that season.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame received the football Drew Brees threw to eclipse Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas’ record of 47 consecutive regular-season games with a touchdown pass. … Running back Kevin Faulk retired after 13 years with the Patriots. He won three Super Bowl rings with the team but has been plagued by injuries since 2010… The Redskins released struggling kicker Billy Cundiff and replaced him with free agent Kai Forbath. … Jets coach Rex Ryan said struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez will remain the team’s starter. Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four straight games.