NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday tweaked his punishment of three of the four players caught in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal.
While reaffirming the league's findings against the four players after meeting with them individually, Goodell decided to lighten the punishment of linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita, and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.
Saints defensive end Will Smith's four-game suspension was upheld.
Vilma remains suspended for the season but will keep the pay he received while on the physically unable-to-perform list. Fujita, now with Cleveland, had his suspension reduced from three games to one. Hargrove, now a free agent, had his suspension cut by one game from eight to seven. If he is signed by a team, he will only serve a two-game suspension after receiving credit for the five games he already has missed this season.
The Saints were found to have had a bounty program from 2009 to 2011 that paid players to inflict injuries that took opposing players out of the game.
"The discipline being imposed today is entirely based on my finding that the players engaged in conduct detrimental and in no way based on any issue of undisclosed payments in violation of the salary cap," Goodell said in a statement. "The four disciplined players either were involved in specific bounties on an opposing player, contributed substantially to the bounty program, engaged in payments that violated league rules or were untruthful when the program was initially investigated."
The players union criticized the league's action in the Saints case.
"For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever," the National Football League Players' Association said in a release. "The only evidence that exists is the league's gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league's refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake."
The union said it will go over the league's decision thoroughly and review its options to protect the players' rights.
The players had their suspensions overturned last month when the NFLPA filed an appeal, which had allowed them to play this season.
Fujita appeared in three games for the Browns, while Smith has appeared in all five games for the Saints. Vilma hasn't played in a game this season because of a knee injury.
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