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The Saints bounty scandal: A timeline of events

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Roger Goodell's suspensions of Saints players were vacated (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the suspensions of the current and former members of the New Orleans Saints who were suspended by current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over an alleged "bounty" program that ran over the course of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Let's take a brief look back at the key events that led to Tuesday's ruling:

March 2, 2012 — The National Football League announces it has evidence that Saints coaches knew of and operated a bounty program that circumvented the salary cap by providing impermissible cash rewards for knocking opponents out of games over the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. According to the league, the program involved between 22 and 27 players.

March 6, 2012 — Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis issue a joint statement taking full responsibility for failing to put a stop to the illegal bounty program.

"We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch," the statement read. "We take full responsibility."

March 21, 2012 — Over two weeks after the statement from Payton and Loomis, the NFL announces that Payton has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, Loomis has been suspended eight games, assistant coach Joe Vitt has been suspended for six games and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely. The NFL also directs all clubs to ensure that no bounty programs exist within their programs.

March 30, 2012 — Payton, Vitt and Loomis appeal suspensions.

April 5, 2012 — As reported by Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver, audio evidence surfaces of Williams instructing Saints defensive players to injure 49ers offensive players during his speech to the team on the night before their 2011 NFC Divisional Playoffs game.

April 9, 2012 — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell denies the appeals of Payton, Vitt and Loomis, but adds that financial penalties could be reduced.

May 2, 2012 — The NFL announces that current Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the 2012 season and defensive end Will Smith has been suspended for four games for their involvement in the bounty program. Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove was suspended for eight games and linebacker Scott Fujita was suspended for three games.

May 17, 2012 - Jonathan Vilma files defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell.

June 4, 2012 - Arbitrator Stephen Burbank affirms Roger Goodell's power to punish players involved in the bounty program.

June 19, 2012 - Dozens of members of the media gather at the NFL headquarters at 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan as NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash shows a sampling of the evidence the league has compiled as part of its bounty investigation.

July 3, 2012 - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell affirms the suspensions of Vilma, Smith, Hargrove and Fujita for their roles in the bounty program.

Sept. 7, 2012 — An appeals panel vacates the suspensions of Vilma, Smith, Hargrove and Fujita, with all four players immediately reinstated by NFL commissioner Goodell, who retaines the power to discipline the players for engaging in an "attempt to injure" scheme.

Oct. 9, 2012 — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reissues the bounty suspensions, though Hargrove's suspension is reduced from eight to seven games and Fujita's three-game suspension is dropped to one game. Suspensions for Vilma and Smith were upheld.

Oct. 19, 2012 — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recuses himself from the Saints bounty appeals. The league announces that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will oversee the appeals.

Dec. 7, 2012 — The four suspended Saints players reject a settlement offer from the NFL that would have reduced the length of their suspensions.

Dec. 11, 2012 — Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacates the player suspensions.

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