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Saints Player Suspensions Handed Down For Bounties, Vilma Out For Entire 2012 Season

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The hits keep coming for the New Orleans Saints (no pun intended) as player suspensions were finally handed down from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surrounding the seemingly never ending New Orleans Saints ‘Bountygate’ scandal. Four players were suspended in total including former Saints defensive players Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita. Current Saints defensive end Will Smith was suspended for four games and linebacker Jonathan Vilma was banned for the entire 2012 season.

This is only the latest of the repercussions from a ‘Bountygate’ scandal that has sidelined Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season and left a huge black eye on the entire New Orleans Saints organization. Another looming cause for concern is that Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints franchise quarterback has still yet to work out a long term deal with the team nor has he participated in any of the offseason workouts with his team that began weeks ago.

Now the Saints have to deal with the loss of their defensive captains Will Smith (first four regular season games) and Jonathan Vilma (entire season effective immediately). Former Saint linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) will see a suspension for the first three regular games and former defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) will sit for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. All four player suspensions are without pay.

All four player suspensions will be appealed, according to NFL source who told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, “get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts.”

[via ESPN]

I am automatically biased being that I am a Saints fan, but while I understand how important Roger Goodell’s message about player safety is, I truly feel as if Jonathan Vilma, Sean Payton and the others who have been suspended as a result of this ‘Bountygate’ scandal are truly being victimized. Never before have I seen someone convicted without a fair trial, or evidence for that matter. Who are these independent sources that brought this information to the league about the Saints? Besides the tough talk audio from former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams before that San Fransisco 49er playoff game, and the “he said, she said,” where is the hardcore evidence that any of this ever even took place?

While I do believe every wrongdoing deserves punishment, the matter in which this ‘Bountygate’ scandal has been handled this far is truly unfair. When the majority of NFL fans and players from all 32 teams are coming to the defense of the Saints, it’s clear that the New Orleans Saints are clearly the victims here. Again, I’m just biased Saints fan, so I guess it doesn’t really matter what I think. I just hope the league is ready to feel the wrath of the monster that they has been created in New Orleans. “Homefield Advantage” has never taken on a bigger definition and I can’t wait until that first game in the Dome.

 

The following is the full statement from the NFL regarding player suspensions.

 

Four players – Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma – were notified today that they have been suspended 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 that endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011. Participation by players in any such program is prohibited by the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, the standard NFL Player Contract, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The specific discipline was determined by Commissioner Roger Goodell after a thorough review of extensive evidence corroborated by multiple independent sources. Under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the standard NFL Player Contract, a player is subject to discipline by the commissioner for conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. The discipline imposed today for such detrimental conduct is as follows:

- Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) is suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2012 regular season. The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for “cart-offs” and “knockouts,” plays during which an opposing player was injured.

– Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.

-  Will Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 regular season.
Smith, a defensive end, 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. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of opposing players.

-  Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions. The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty — $10,000 in cash – to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.

Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith may participate in all off-season activity, including preseason games
, prior to the suspensions taking effect. Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days. If an appeal is filed, Commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.

What are your thoughts on the player suspensions?

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