On Tuesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Saints defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant won't have to immediately serve four-game suspensions imposed by the league from the StarCaps incident. Their suspensions were to begin this week, but Goodell cited the need to maintain a competitive balance in the league and, by virtue of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams having their four-game suspensions delayed due to a ruling in Minnesota courts that blocked their suspensions until their court case is heard, said the Saints players shouldn't be penalized when the Vikings players are not. The league is clearly upset that the Williamses and their attorneys have found a way to circumvent the punitive stage of the league's anti-doping policy, but the ruling clears the way for the other players caught in the StarCaps scandal to remain on the field as well.
"(The) NFL will vigorously contest MN state law claims and enforce appropriate discipline on a consistent/uniform basis," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell laid out the league's stance in a statement.
"Our primary goal is to maintain the effectiveness and integrity of our program, which has repeatedly been recognized as among the finest in all of sports. An important part of that program has been a tradition of fairness for players and clubs, with all players knowing they are held to a common standard. Because the Minnesota and New Orleans players committed the same violation and had their appeals resolved at the same time, I believe the appropriate step is to defer the suspensions while we pursue both our legal options and continue discussions with the NFLPA."
The statement continued: "Now that the courts have rejected the NFLPA's improper challenge to our collectively bargained program, we hope the union will join us in ensuring that these principles of fairness and uniformity are preserved. The union's unfortunate refusal to do so thus far has created needless uncertainty for our program. This is an important issue not only for the NFL, but for all sports and everyone who cares about the integrity of sports competition. This is why the other professional leagues and the USADA supported us in this case."
In a related move, the NFL has appealed the temporary restraining order issued by Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson that has allowed the Williams Wall to continue playing while their case works it way through the court. The appeal was filed about the time a three-judge panel in the Eighth District Court of Appeals remanded the case back to Minnesota state court.
The other issue at hand concerns Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini. A week ago today during his weekly press conference, quarterback Brett Favre was asked about his health and, in the process, let it be known that both he and the Jets knew about his torn biceps tendon with five games remaining in the 2008 season, but that he continued playing at the behest of the Jets organization. Mangini, who was Favre's coach at the time, was aware of the injury, yet Favre's name never appeared on the team's injury report. Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum fell on his sword last week as news spread of the Jets knowledge of the Favre injury. But the league is investigating what, if any, role Mangini played in covering up the injury. Tannenbaum said he felt the Jets didn't do anything wrong, since Favre wasn't getting daily treatment for the injury and that there was no question that he was going to play from one week to the next.
While the Vikings weren't directly related to either the StarCaps decision or the injury report investigation, their fingerprints are all over both issues.