Huge developments in the Saints Bountygate scandal has blown up just hours before the rest of the NFL opens up week 1 of the 2012 season.
A three-man arbitration panel ruled to overturn the suspension of the four players who were suspended by the NFL for their involvement in the "pay to injury" scandal that rocked the league at the end of last season.
That means, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove could play this season. Vilma was suspended for the season, Smith and Fujita were suspended eight games, and Hargrove was suspended four games.
Keep in mind these players are out of shape. They were not allowed to train with their respective teams during training camp and pre-season. So these guys have to get back into football shape fast if they are going to help out their teams this season.
It could be a month before any of these guys are ready to play in a game, so they are going to miss games anyway because of this situation.
Vilma and Smith are still on the Saints. With those two back, it only helps New Orleans return to form this year. The Saints have added Steve Spagnolo at defensive coordinator, and with Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker, the Saints will have a loaded defense.
Hargrove is now with the Packers, and Fujita is in his second year with the Cleveland Browns.
The lift of this ban does not pertain to Saints head coach Sean Payton, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, or Saints GM Micky Loomis. All three have to serve out their suspensions, because they are not part of the players union, which helped end the aforementioned suspensions.
This is a huge black eye for the NFL. It shows that commishoner Roger Goodell does not have the power that he thought he had when he levied these suspensions during the spring. There is nothing Goodell can do now, other than to bit his lip in frustration that his ruling went by the wayside.
The NFL also looks bad, because they allowed New Orleans to continue their bounty program for three years running from 2009-2011 before the lawsuits on concussions started to pile up. That being said these players should not be allowed to play. This sends a terrible message to the rest of the league.