With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expected to meet early next week with the four players suspended over the Saints' alleged bounty program, the NFL has sought to clarify the appeals panel decision from last week that vacated the suspensions. In essence, the league has explained that the appeals ruling did not overturn the suspensions, but temporarily held them up until Goodell ruled that he issued the discipilne over conduct detrimental to the league or over salary cap violations because the players took payments for specific performance-related plays.
It's improtant to note that the panel did not say that Goodell couldn't discipline the players, only that he had to make the differentiation. Goodell won't issue any new disciplinary measures until he meets with Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Here's the league's statement explaining the appeals panel's decision:
"In light of some confusion surrounding the ruling of the CBA Appeals Panel, it is important to understand what the panel did and did not rule. The panel did not overturn the suspensions and did not say Commissioner Goodell overstepped his authority.
"The panel’s decision asks no more than that the commissioner clarify his earlier rulings to ensure — and to clearly state — that no part of the prior ruling was attributable to matters within Professor Burbank’s authority (salary cap violations). It does not require the commissioner to take additional evidence or to “reweigh” the evidence currently in the record. The panel did not take issue with any findings that were made in the course of the investigation, did not exonerate anyone involved, and did not say that the commissioner “overstepped his authority.”
"The panel made clear that the commissioner had full authority to impose discipline on the players so long as the discipline was attributable to conduct detrimental to the league, rather than “undisclosed compensation.” The panel asked only that he clarify that he was not relying on the “undisclosed” nature of the financial incentives in imposing the discipline. In the meantime, the panel put the suspensions on hold."