NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has lowered the hammer on four New Orleans Saints players who were involved in the team’s bounty scandal, with Jonathan Vilma leading the way and getting one of the most significant suspensions in NFL history.
Vilma has been banished for all of 2012, effective immediately and through the Super Bowl, for his role in the bounty scandal. Vilma reportedly put $10,000 cash on the table in the team’s meeting room and said the cash would go to anyone who could knock Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010.
Anthony Hargrove, who’s now with the Packers, was given an eight-game suspension after the NFL said that he, too, targeted Favre in the NFC Championship Game. The NFL says that Hargrove eventually admitted his role in the team’s bounty program, but that at first “Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.”
Will Smith was suspended four games. The NFL says he worked with former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in setting up the bounty program.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is no longer in New Orleans, but he was given a three-game suspension for his role in the bounty program when he played for the team.
“It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced,” Goodell said in the league’s statement. “Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”
Goodell has said he believes players were not just participants at the behest of Williams, but were actively encouraging and celebrating the bounties. The NFL Players’ Association has signaled that it does not agree with Goodell’s assessment. Vilma, Hargrove, Smith and Fujita all have the right to appeal.