At some point, the NFL will impose punishment on multiple non-players who were involved in the Saints’ three-year bounty system. But plenty of players also will face some type of sanction.
As a source with knowledge of the process has explained it, one of the key factors in any discipline will be whether the penalties are characterized as on-field or off-field behavior.
It it’s the former, any appeals would be heard by Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA. For the latter, the NFL would review the decision.
For example, last year’s stomping incident by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was reviewed via the independent appeal process. But Troy Polamalu’s cell-phone call to his wife from the sidelines was regarded as an off-field violation.
This one could go either way. The payments were aimed at getting players to attempt to inflict injury and otherwise perform on the field. But the system was maintained and administered off the field. And some could be fined or suspended for funding the payments (like Jonathan Vilma, who offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game), while others could be sanctioned for delivering the hits and pocketing the payments.
Though the assumption is that it would be better for the players to have the punishment appealed by Shell or Cottrell, keep in mind that the independent process upheld the two-game suspension of Suh. The in-house jury/jury routine overturned the fine imposed on Polamalu.
Either way, it could still be a while before the players are punished. Steve Wyche of NFL.com reports that the NFL may take action against the non-players before doing so against the players.