Ashley Fox: Reduce bounty penalties?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is waiting until at least Friday to rule on the appeals of four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, including current Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. ESPN.com NFL columnist Ashley Fox suggests Goodell should give serious thought to reducing the penalties. An excerpt:

Even though he is leaving the players' appeals open through the end of Friday, there is little reason to think Goodell will suddenly back off his decision to suspend Vilma (full season), Hargrove (eight games), Smith (four games) and Fujita (three games). He probably should. In light of the evidence the league has made public so far, the suspensions seem more than a little harsh.

Maybe the league has more specifically on the players than it has released. It must, given the impact on those players' careers and reputations. But what the players were shown during their appeals hearings wasn't all that convincing. There wasn't a so-called smoking gun. There was a lot of evidence that the Saints had a pool for performance on the field. There was some evidence, taken from the Saints' own computer system, that money was pledged for so-called bounties. And there was a lot of evidence of the coaches' hubris.

But from what was released earlier this week, there wasn't overwhelmingly damning evidence against the players.

Conventional wisdom suggests Goodell won't change his mind, and it's quite possible that a federal court case could be the players' next stop.