Roger Goodell and the National Football League have just announced that they will be suspending four players “without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their leadership roles in the New Orleans Saints‘ pay-for-performance/bounty program.” Obviously, this is big news and the players that have been punished include Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita, and Will Smith.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma received the harshest punishment as he was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 NFL season. According to the NFL, Vilma helped former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams establish the program and he also helped run and fund the program. Vilma also offered $10,000 in cash on multiple occasions, including to anyone that knocked Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Game and also to anyone that knocked Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game, according to research done by the National Football League. Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.
Scott Fujita, who is now with the Cleveland Browns, has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2012 season for his role in the bounty system, to which he pledged a significant amount of money, according to research done by the NFL. Fujita got the lightest punishment out of all four players, and though he played a role, he didn’t engineer the program like Vilma did.
Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, has been suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. It was established that Hargrove knew about the bounty program, and he simply did nothing to prevent it. Hargrove also hindered the investigation by being “untruthful to investigators,” according to the NFL. It is currently unknown whether the Packers knew that Hargrove would miss significant time, but they probably had some idea. Otherwise, they might not have signed him.
And Will Smith was also suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 NFL season. It was found that Smith helped Williams establish and fund the program, but only during a short period of time. Thus, his punishment is lighter than Vilma’s. However, “multiple independent sources” confirmed to the league that Smith also contributed money to the pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of players on the other team.
The punishment for Vilma may seem a little bit harsh, but it’s really not. Roger Goodell and the NFL really wanted to send a message with these suspensions, and Vilma was a key leader in the program. Also, Goodell sent out a memo to all NFL teams today re-emphasizing the fact that any bonus programs such as bounty programs are strictly prohibited and that severe punishment would be handed down.
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