NFL: Goodell sticks with two players' bounty penalties, reduces two
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith on Tuesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and reduced penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Vilma will sit out the entire season and Smith's punishment stands at four games.
Hargrove, a free agent defensive lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with five games already served. Fujita, who plays for Cleveland, will now miss only one game instead of three.
The players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone.
Only Smith and Fujita have played this season because an appeal panel created by the NFL's labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds and informed Goodell that he needed to clarify the reasons for the punishment.
Vilma has been recovering from offseason knee surgery and hopes to return in two weeks when the Saints play at Tampa Bay.
The players' suspensions were lifted last month by a three-member appeals panel that determined Goodell was overstepping his authority if he was punishing the players for both conduct detrimental to the league and circumventing the salary cap. He has the authority to punish for the former, but not for the latter.
Goodell modified the suspensions, clarifying they were for conduct detrimental, and resubmitted them.
The players can further delay their suspensions by appealing again through their labor contract. They could also ask a federal judge in New Orleans to revisit their earlier request for an injunction blocking the suspensions.
Around the league
Texans • Linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left knee ligament, leaving unbeaten Houston without its top tackler and one of their emotional leaders. Cushing was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans' 23-17 win over the New York Jets on a low block by guard Matt Slauson.
Jets • Coach Rex Ryan says there is "no question" that Mark Sanchez is the New York's starting quarterback despite struggling at times in a 23-17 loss to Houston on Sunday. Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four straight games and many fans and media have suggested that backup Tim Tebow should take over as the starter.
Redskins • Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is expected to participate in the Washington Redskins' practice on Wednesday, a person familiar with the situation said. Griffin, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, has been given clearance to participate in the practice, barring a setback, the person said.
Karras near death
Alex Karras was recently released from a California hospital after having kidney failure so he could spend his final days with family.
"He may be dying of kidney failure because now his body is catching up to the deterioration of his mind," Craig Mitnick, Karras' attorney in a lawsuit against the NFL, told The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon.
The 77-year-old former defensive tackle and actor, who was born and raised in Gary, Ind., has been surrounded by his wife and kids at his home in Los Angeles.
In his day, Karras was one of the NFL's best defensive tackles. The Detroit Lions drafted Karras 10th overall in 1958 out of Iowa and he was a four-time All-Pro over 12 seasons with the franchise.
Karras became a bit of a celebrity through George Plimpton's behind-the-scenes book about what it was like to be an NFL player in the Motor City, "Paper Lion: Confessions of a Second-string Quarterback." That led to Karras playing himself in the movie adaption, and it opened doors for him such as being an analyst alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on "Monday Night Football."
Karras had a well-known appearance as Mongo in the 1974 movie "Blazing Saddles" and was a star in the 1980s sitcom "Webster."
He took on another role this year as lead plaintiff in a complaint against the NFL by ex-players who claim the league didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries.
"Alex's decision to get involved in this was for the right reasons to help the game of football," Mitnick said.
Week 6 schedule
Thursday, Oct. 11
Pittsburgh at Tennessee, 6:20 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 14
Oakland at Atlanta, 11 a.m.
Kansas City at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m.
Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets, 11 a.m.
Cincinnati at Cleveland, 11 a.m.
Detroit at Philadelphia, 11 a.m.
St. Louis at Miami, 11 a.m.
Dallas at Baltimore, 11 a.m.
Buffalo at Arizona, 2:05 p.m.
New England at Seattle, 2:05 p.m., Ch. 2
N.Y. Giants at San Francisco, 2:25 p.m.
Minnesota at Washington, 2:25 p.m.
Green Bay at Houston, 6:20 p.m., Ch. 5
Open: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans
Monday, Oct. 15
Denver at San Diego, 6:30 p.m., ESPN