The NFL suspended four players from the New Orleans Saints for their involvement in the “bounty program” today. Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma were all suspended without pay for varying amounts of time.
Saints’ linebacker Vilma was suspended for the entire season. Defensive End Smith received a four-game suspension. Fujita, a linebacker who now plays with the Cleveland Browns, was suspended for three games. Hargrove, who now plays as a defensive lineman with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended eight-games.
Sean Payton, the Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints, was previously suspended for the entire season for his involvement with the bounty program. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement:
“It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced. Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”
The NFL said that it found evidence that players put up their own money toward bounties and also accepted payments for big hits. The NFL said that Vilma, who was the defensive captain under Williams, helped create the bounty program. The NFL also said that Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who injured Kurt Warner or Brett Favre in the 2009 playoffs.
“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.”
CNN reports that all four players can appeal the suspensions.