Joining Saint linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith has issued a statement regarding the suspension imposed on him for involvement in the team’s three-year bounty system.
The league’s announcement of the suspensions says that Smith “assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit,” and that “[m]ultiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for ‘cart-offs’ and ‘knockouts’ of opposing players.”
Smith denies any involvement in the bounty program, calling the accusations against him “false.”
“I am disappointed the NFL has punished me with a four game suspension,” Smith said in a statement forwarded to PFT. “I have never in my career, nor as a Captain asked others, to intentionally target and hurt specific opposing players. I was in no way involved in establishing or assisting Gregg Williams with implementing a bounty program. The accusations made against me are completely and one-hundred percent false, and I plan to appeal the decision along with the help of the NFL Players Association.
“Through this entire process, the NFL never notified me of what I was being accused of, nor presented me with any evidence or reasoning for this decision. I am interested in discovering who is making these specific and false accusations, and as well as why a decision was made without speaking with me and giving me the opportunity to review the facts. I am going to work with my union to clear my name and returning to the game I love and respect. Thank you to our fans for the continued support.”
Apart from calling the accusations false, Smith seems to take issue with the league’s position that he was given a chance to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
As with Vilma’s statement, Smith’s denial would have been more convincing in early March than in early May. But we’ll continue to wait for the evidence to come out before making any conclusions regarding whether the players are or aren’t guilty as charged.