Mike Garafolo, USA TODAY Sports
The gist of Paul Tagliabue's decision to vacate the fines and suspensions in the New Orleans' Saints bounty case is that everyone -- the implicated players, coaches and members of the front office as well as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell -- was at least somewhat in the wrong.
Except for Scott Fujita.
The Cleveland Browns' linebacker came out of this situation better than anyone because Tagliabue ruled he did not engage in "conduct detrimental to the league," as Goodell had asserted. Tagliabue specifically wrote he did "not find Fujita's conduct equivalent to the other players" because he did not offer money for injuries and did not interfere with the league's investigation.
"I find the NFL's contentions lacking in merit," Tagliabue wrote.
By that, Tagliabue meant the league had no basis to discipline Fujita for offering money to players for sacks and interceptions. Tagliabue noted that, in the past, the league put the onus on teams to make sure players were in compliance with salary-cap rules. When there was a violation, the club was fined, not the player.
"In separate instances involving the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots in 2007 and 2008, the League fined the clubs $25,000 or less, without disciplining any player," Tagliabue wrote, adding:
"Accordingly, the NFL's decision to suspend a player here for participating in a program for which the League typically fines a club certainly raises significant issues regarding inconsistent treatment between players and teams."
Tagliabue concluded, "Given that it is undisputed that Fujita did not participate in the Program including cartoffs and knockouts, and that his participation in a "non-injury" pay-for-performance pool is typically subject only to club discipline, I find that his actions here were not conduct detrimental and vacate his suspension."
Fujita could not be immediately reached for comment. His agent, Don Yee, declined comment for now, saying he was still processing what the ruling meant for Fujita and whether future legal action would be taken.