On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell meted out discipline to a variety of non-players who were responsible for and/or had knowledge of the Saints’ bounty system. Players like linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game, were not punished.
Eventually, they will be.
“While I will not address player conduct at this time, I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players – including leaders among the defensive players – embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players,” Commissioner Goodell said in the official announcement regarding the punishment. “While all club personnel are expected to play to win, they must not let the quest for victory so cloud their judgment that they willingly and willfully target their opponents and engage in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players.”
As recently explained, the characterization of the punishment imposed on players will influence the appeal process that applies. Discipline for on-field conduct goes to one of two independent arbitrators — Ted Cottrell or Art Shell. If characterized as off-field misconduct, the NFL ultimately resolves any appeal.
The NFLPA will be involved in the appeal process, whatever that process may be. “It is clear the League took the role of management and the coaching staff seriously in this matter,” the union said in response to Wednesday’s news. The bigger question is whether and to what extent the NFLPA will fight discipline imposed on one or more players.