Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue re-entered the spotlight late last year when he acted as the independent arbiter on the appeals of the player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. Tagliabue made it a memorable return when he ruled that all of the player suspensions levied by current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should be withdrawn.
Tagilabue had yet to publicly discuss that decision until Tuesday, when he talked to The Times-Picayune:
The former NFL commissioner said in a phone interview last week that the main reason he vacated the suspensions to players Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Jon Vilma and Will Smith was to end the sordid scandal which had preoccupied the league for almost a year.
“We were going to be litigating into 2013 and right into 2014,” Tagliabue said. “Rather than keeping the focus on getting the 32 teams, the 5,000 players to focus on player safety, you’d spend half a decade in litigation. That wasn’t really going to help very much of anything. This thing became an impediment to progress.”
While saying the bounty program did exist, Tagliabue placed the blame on the team — not the players — in his 22-page decision. His ruling ended months of litigation and a warring between the Saints and Goodell.
“It had become more than just a distraction,” Tagliabue said. “The controversy was overshadowing everything Roger had accomplished in terms of emphasizing player safety. From my perspective, Roger found himself in an impossible spot. It became impossible for him in any sensible way to bring it to an end. Everyone would be better off to bring it to an end.”
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor