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Column: Tagliabue shows Goodell how it's done

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Column: Tagliabue shows Goodell how it's done

``Round up the usual suspects.''

Funny how that line near the end of ``Casablanca'' provides a fitting epitaph for Bountygate, too. Like Capt. Renault in the film classic, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was presented with a crime and empowered as both judge and jury. He considered the evidence, weighed the injury to the parties involved, then concluded - conveniently - that no further action was required. Justice had already been served.

Tagliabue's reasoning was torturous, but the result was fair. He decided the two Saints players who took part in cash-for-hits program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-2011, and a third who assisted in trying to cover it up, had suffered enough, commuting the suspensions to time served and erased their fines. And he cleared Scott Fujita, who'd maintained his innocence all along.

Just as important, Tagliabue affirmed current Commissioner Roger Goodell's findings of fact in the case, even if he didn't agree with the ham-handed way the punishments were doled out. Tagliabue knew his successor didn't need any more challenges to his reputation or authority at the moment, not with back-to-back tragedies casting a shadow over the league's last two weekends and concussion-related lawsuits piling up outside the door to his office. Most important, Tagliabue knew the people at the top of the Saints organization who were responsible for the bounty scheme - general manager Mickey Loomis, coach Sean Peyton, Williams and several others; in this case, ``the usual suspects'' - were already serving time, banished from the league for varying lengths of time and slapped with heavy fines.

Goodell isn't completely in the clear, either. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whom Goodell hit the hardest, said Tuesday he would press ahead his defamation lawsuit against the commissioner, which only seems fair. I wrote back in May that Goodell ``better have the goods,'' and that ``somewhere in the 50,000 pages of documents related to the Saints bounty program better be some compelling evidence that it was much more organized and way more vicious than anything the NFL had ever seen. Otherwise, the punishment he's doled out already has exceeded the crime.''

What Williams did wasn't all that different from what coaches have been doing since football was invented. He just kept better records, bragged about it too often and loudly, and despite repeated warnings, his bosses in the locker room and the front office didn't see fit to shut it down. About the fourth or fifth time Williams handed out cash for big hits, or launched into one of his ``kill the head'' pep talks, it was only natural to assume that was the company policy. That the players ``just sat and nodded at Williams instead of calling a crisis intervention hotline,'' as one writer put it, ``was not grounds to take away their livelihood for long periods of time.''

Tagliabue agreed. But with Goodell facing an increasingly rebellious players' union in just the second year of a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, his predecessor saw no reason to limit the commissioner's discretionary powers.

``To be clear: this case should not be considered a precedent for whether similar behavior in the future merits player suspensions or fines,'' his ruling said.

Tagliabue also concurred that the Saints organization deserved to be punished severely, and had been. Not just for allowing Williams to rant on and run and his little ``performance'' pool unchecked for several seasons, but for trying to impede the league's investigation at every turn along the way. Unlike his players, Williams' bosses quit fighting and fessed up. Bet they wish now, like the players, they had a union, too.

The surprise here isn't Tagliabue's decision. It was clear months ago, despite selective excerpts from the league's voluminous files, that Goodell didn't have the goods to take the unilateral actions he did. And that was only reinforced by the sham of an appeals process that wound its way back to his desk. The real surprise, ultimately, is that Tagliabue got to decide the case at all.

Goodell agreed to an appeal of the appeal with considerable reluctance, likely thinking that if anyone would understand his rationale, it would the guy who once sat in the same seat. The union initially opposed Tagliabue's selection for that very reason, fearing he was too invested in the league's business to be a fair arbiter. Turns out they both got it wrong.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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