(Sports Network) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the discipline that was imposed on four players for their role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.
Jonathan Vilma, who is still with the Saints, received the harshest penalty of the four. He is suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season, while teammate Will Smith received a four-game suspension without pay.
Anthony Hargrove, now with the Packers, was suspended eight games without pay, and Scott Fujita, now with the Browns, was hit with a three-game suspension, also without pay.
Goodell explained his decision in a letter to the players:
"Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions. Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process...
"Although you claimed to have been 'wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,' your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing 'conduct detrimental' determinations..."
The commissioner added that he has the authority to reduce the suspensions if new facts emerge. He stated that each of the players were given multiple chances to present him with their side of the story and that they are still welcome to do so.
In reaction to the ruling the NFLPA released the following statement:
"The players are disappointed with the League's conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the Commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.
The NFLPA has never and will never condone dangerous or reckless conduct in football and to date, nothing the League has provided proves these players were participants in a pay-to-injure program. We will continue to pursue all options."