Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has made his ruling on the suspensions and fines for Saints players as a result of the NFL's Bountygate investigation, and the news isn't good for Roger Goodell: all of the penalties for individual players have been vacated. Greg Aiello of the NFL's PR office has the details, but here's the direct statement from Tagliabue.
Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects…My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization. Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell's findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty (on Brett Favre).
This is huge for the Saints players affected by the Goodell's punishments, and will likely be a huge boon for Jonathan Vilma's defamtion lawsuit against Goodell. The NFL's statement in response was terse.
"We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football."
Essentially, Tagliabue ruled that the fault was with the Saints organization as opposed to the players, and that the players were merely pawns in the game being played by New Orleans coaches.