New York, NY
After receiving flak over the past few months, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from further hearing the bounty program case involving several players from the New Orleans Saints.
NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith said Goodell informed him that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will now take over the case involving present and former Saints players Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Goodell said Friday he notified Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, as well as the players' union, that Tagliabue would be the hearing officer to "decide the appeals and bring the matter to a prompt and fair conclusion."
Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season and Smith was banned four games for their roles in the bounty program. Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, was earlier barred for three games but it was reduced to one. Hargrove, a free agent, had his suspension reduced from eight games to seven.
Earlier, the union and the four players had asked Goodell to recuse himself, saying he could not fairly rule. Their second set of appeals will be heard Oct. 30.
"The commissioner's decision today makes it clear to us that he's finally been convinced there is no way he could ever have been a fair and neutral arbitrator," Vilma's legal counsel Peter Ginsberg told ESPN.com.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell has the exclusive authority to hear appeals of discipline for conduct detrimental or appoint a designee to hear and decide an appeal.
Goodell said he asked for Smith's advice in several conversations before deciding to appoint another hearing officer for this case.
"Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity," he said.
Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner from 1989-2006, has yet to determine the time and location of the hearing. He will issue a decision as soon as possible after the hearings.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recused himself from considering appeals by Saints players in the ongoing bounty case
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