The NFL announced the suspensions of players in conjunction with the New Orleans Saints "bountygate" today.
The NFL addedThe statement reads: 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.
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.
This is the largest suspension handed down by the NFL, no doubt in a effort to curb any future "pay for performance" incentive designed to injure opposing players.
Fans of the Saints should be happy this is as bad as it is. Goodell could have done a lot worse. It's still historic. It's a damn shame, because here at FVP, the belief is the Saints were just the ones who got caught. Granted, the arrogance of lying to investigators and/or covering it up certainly have added to the pain felt by all involved.
In media reaction, old friend Peter King couldn't resist taking another Spygate jab at the Patriots, saying that the Saints now lead 77-0 vs. New England, regarding games lost by suspension. Seems, like many, King simply can't let it go. The two are unrelated. The Pats videotaped. The Saints committed a crime. I am not condoning what New England did, but to draw attention to Spygate yet again just makes King look bitter. "How dare you tarnish my great, perfect game of football" seems to be King's mantra as he continually grinds his Spygate ax. Hey Pete, get over it. It's a videotape. Don't think for a minute that the Pats were the only ones, witness this mess in New Orleans.