The NFL has suspended four players for their role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty system, with former University of Miami linebacker Jon Vilma receiving the harshest punishment; a ban for the entire 2012 season.
Other players suspended – former Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games), defensive end Will Smith (four games) and linebacker Scott Fujita (three games). Hargrove is currently with the Green Bay Packers and Fujita has moved on to Cleveland, while Vilma and Smith remain with New Orleans. All four are suspended without pay and all will be appealed.
The NFL Players Association released a statement that it still hasn’t received “any detailed or specific evidence from the league of these specific players’ involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program”.
“We have made it clear that punishment without evidence is not fair. We have spoken with our players and their representatives and we will vigorously protect and pursue all options on their behalf,” the NFLPA said.
Vilma received the harshest punishment as he’s accused of helping former Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams create and fund the bounty pool when captain of the defense.
The NFL also stated that Vilma pledged $10,000 in cash to any Saints player who knocked former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 divisional playoff game and offered the same deal regarding the NFC title game an a showdown with Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.
Whether Vilma was a Gator, Buckeye or Nole, my stance would be the same here; who cares? This is the NFL. Guys rip each others heads off for a paycheck and used to play with leather helmets. Without a cash bounty, would Saints defenders have gone easier on Warner or Favre? Please.
Time to save all the sanctimonious rants here. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is putting his foot down as a PR move. Nothing more. Make an example of a few, when the problem is widespread and the culture will never change. Pathetic.
NFL players earn bonuses for winning their division, their conference, for reaching the Super Bowl and winning the big game.
The motivation to take key players out of a contest has been in existence since the first competitive football game was in the record books. Players do what they have to do to win. They always have and always will. There’s no dirtier place on the planet than the bottom of a football pile.
Only difference here? The fact that the Saints are accused of having an actual bounty and calling it what it was. – C.B.