(NFL) The four players suspended by the NFL for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" program had their suspensions overturned by a collective bargaining agreement appeals panel Friday, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said.
While the suspensions are vacated immediately, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can go back and suspend the players if he proves there was an intent to injure. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said all players are eligible to play, starting with this weekend, until Goodell does so.
"Consistent with the panel's decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league's pay-for-performance/bounty rule," Aiello said in a statement. "Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 regular season, free agent Anthony Hargrove for eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita three games.
Fujita and Hargrove played for the Saints during the program duration which ran from 2009 to 2011 under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely. The suspensions of Williams, coach Sean Payton (season-long suspension), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) were not involved in this appeals process.
Vilma took to Twitter to express his satisfaction about the ruling.
Black n Gold to the Super Bowl ! Who Dat!