4 Players Suspended in New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, continued handing out red cards today as he suspended four current and former New Orleans Saints players for various lengths of time for their roles in a scandal involving bonuses for trying to hurt opponents. The league said the suspended players – Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith – had leadership roles in the bounty program.
Defensive end Will Smith will sit out four games. Anthony Hargrove, a former Saints defensive end who signed with the Green Bay Packers in March, was given an eight-game suspension. Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, was suspended for three games.Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, got hit the hardest with a suspension that will last the entire 2012-2013 NFL season. That suspension is effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions.
It appears that Vilma, a defensive captain, received the harshest punishment amongst the players because he helped the team's defensive coordinator establish and fund the program (according to the league news release).
"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," the league said.
"No bounty program can exist without active player participation,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an NFL news release. "The evidence clearly showed that the players being held accountable today willingly and enthusiastically embraced the bounty program. Players put the vast majority of the money into this program and they share responsibility for playing by the rules and protecting each other within those rules.”
Expect appeals to follow soon. The NFL Players Association released a statement earlier today saying 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.
Apparently Vilma found out about his suspension by watching ESPN's "SportsCenter" and not from the league itself.
Meanwhile, Saints running back Mark Ingram tweeted that the suspensions will only motivate New Orleans.
"Don't worry they just makin us hungrier and puttin a bigger chip on or shoulder!! #WHODATNATION will rise above it!! #believedat," he wrote.
We shall see.
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