Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Will Smith are back in the NFL. For now.
The suspensions of those players, plus unsigned free agent Anthony Hargrove, for their roles in New Orleans' pay-for-pain bounty scandal were lifted Friday by a three-member appeals panel.
The league reinstated them all a few minutes later.
The Saints' Smith and Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, probably will play in Sunday's season openers. Vilma can at least rejoin teammates and coaches in New Orleans and get paid even if the linebacker is not yet ready to play because of knee problems.
And Hargrove can start talking to NFL teams about giving him another shot, after he was cut by the Green Bay Packers.
Still, there's no telling how long the reprieve will last.
Coming just two days before the first full slate of NFL games this season, the ruling is a setback for commissioner Roger Goodell and the league. But while the decision allows the players to rejoin their teams, it does not permanently void their suspensions.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell would "make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed" for violating the league's bounty rule.
"Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend," Aiello said.
The ruling does not affect New Orleans coach Sean Payton, suspended for the season, interim coach Joe Vitt (six games) or general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games).
While the panel did not address the merits of the NFL's bounty investigation, it found that Goodell overstepped his authority in hearing the players' appeals of their punishments for participating in the Saints bounty program, which paid cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents.
No decision on AP
The Minnesota Vikings are willing to wait until game time to determine whether running back Adrian Peterson plays in the season opener against Jacksonville.
Coach Leslie Frazier said after Friday's practice there is no reason to decide before the active list must be declared 90 minutes ahead of kickoff Sunday. This was a back-track from Thursday, when Frazier said the Vikings would figure out Peterson's status on Friday night or Saturday morning.
"We'll definitely have an answer on Sunday, one way or another," Frazier said, innocently stating the obvious.
Peterson was listed as questionable to play the Jaguars on the injury report, which by definition gives him a 50-50 chance. The 27-year-old two-time All-Pro pick is recovering from reconstructive surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee last Christmas Eve. He's had no setbacks during his rehabilitation, and all signs have pointed to his participation.
Around the league
Texans • Coach Gary Kubiak says running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brooks Reed sat out Friday's practice and will be "game-time" decisions for the season opener against Miami. Foster, the NFL's leading rusher in 2010, has a sore knee and Reed has a sore hip. Foster, who sat out last year's opener with a left hamstring injury, says his knee just needed rest.
Seahawks • Running back Marshawn Lynch is listed as questionable for Sunday's opener at Arizona after being a limited participant in practice most of the week.
Panthers • Carolina has listed running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) as questionable for Sunday's season opener at Tampa Bay.
Jets • Defensive tackle and former Utah player Sione Po'uha is questionable to play in the team's season opener against Buffalo, and not out, as coach Rex Ryan initially announced. Ryan says Po'uha, sidelined since training camp with a sore back, is "close" and has been "begging us to play."
Week 1 schedule
Dallas 24, N.Y. Giants 17
Indianapolis at Chicago, 11 a.m.
Jacksonville at Minnesota, 11 a.m.
Miami at Houston, 11 a.m.
New England at Tennessee, 11 a.m., Ch. 2
Washington at New Orleans, 11 a.m., Ch. 13
Atlanta at Kansas City, 11 a.m.
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 11 a.m.
St. Louis at Detroit, 11 a.m.
Philadelphia at Cleveland, 11 a.m.
Seattle at Arizona, 2:25 p.m.
San Francisco at Green Bay, 2:25 p.m., Ch. 13
Carolina at Tampa Bay, 2:25 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Denver, 6:20 p.m., Ch. 5
Cincinnati at Baltimore, 5 p.m., ESPN
San Diego at Oakland, 8:15 p.m., ESPN