Four Saints have bans overturned
The suspensions of the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints 'bounty' programme have been overturned, the NFL have announced.
The ruling which concerns Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove was made by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed to handle a second round of player appeals.
Tagliabue found the players' conduct was detrimental to the league, but claimed the entire case had been "contaminated".
Under the 'bounty' programme, players received payments for 'knock-outs' and 'cart-offs', plays on which an opposing player was forced to leave the game.
"Unlike Saints' broad organisational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects," Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league and posted on www.nfl.com.
"My affirmation of Commissioner (Roger) Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organisation."
The NFL said in a statement in reaction to the ruling: "We respect Mr. Tagliabue's decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters.
"This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr (Tagliabue) as Commissioner Goodell's designated appeals officer."