December 4, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) lines up against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita have been reinstated by the league today after their suspensions — related to Gregg Williams “bounty” program — were overturned by a three-member appeals panel.
The panel ruled that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did not have the authority to suspended the players for allegedly receiving cash pay-outs for big hits that resulted in injury to opposing players.
However the possibility still exists that the players can be suspended if the NFL, and Goodell, can prove the players took the field with the intent to purposefully injure opponents — easier said than done.
For now all the players are eligible to return to their teams, and if available, to play in the season opener for their respective clubs.
That’s great news for the New Orleans Saints as Will Smith is one of the teams best outside pass rushers, and Jonathan Vilma is an unquestioned leader in the locker room and on the field.
Smith is sure to suit up for the Saints upcoming game against the Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile Vilma, who had received a year-long suspension, may still not be ready to play as he may not be medically cleared by team doctors while continuing to rehab a knee injury.
Scott Fujita left the Saints after their Super Bowl winning 2009 season and is currently in the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Browns.
Anthony Hargrove has bounced around the league since leaving the Saints after the 2010 season. He was a member of the Green Bay Packers this off season, but is currently a free agent.