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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell re-issues bounty discipline

By Brett Martel

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9 2012 10:50 p.m. MDT

NEW ORLEANS — 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 Saints 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.

Goodell's new ruling comes about a month after an appeal panel created by the NFL's labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds during Week 1 of the regular season and informed Goodell that he needed to clarify the reasons for the punishment.

Only Smith and Fujita have played this season. Vilma has been recovering from offseason knee surgery and hopes to return in two weeks when the Saints play at Tampa Bay.

TEXANS' CUSHING OUT OF THE SEASON: Linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left knee ligament, leaving the unbeaten Houston Texans without their 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. Cushing walked off the field on his own, but didn't return.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that Cushing has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will need surgery in two to three weeks, after the swelling subsides. Cushing was leading Houston in tackles (38) before Monday night's game.

"A big blow for our team," Kubiak said. "We have to have guys pick it up around him and we've got to find a way to move forward. We're all just disappointed for him. It's a tough day for him."

The Texans (5-0) play Green Bay (2-3) in Houston on Sunday night.

RYAN SAYS SANCHEZ STILL THE STARTER: Mark Sanchez is staying put as the New York Jets' starting quarterback.

Despite struggling again in a 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans, Sanchez is still Rex Ryan's guy — despite many fans and media suggesting a switch to Tim Tebow could help the Jets (2-3) get back on track.

"Yeah, no question," the Jets coach said Tuesday without hesitation when asked if Sanchez remains the team's starter.

Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four straight games, and his 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the NFL.

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