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New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) has been suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL, one of four players punished for participating in a pay-for-pain bounty system.
Jonathan Vilma, the New Orleans Saints’ defensive captain, was suspended by the NFL without pay for the entire 2012 season Wednesday for his role in helping former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in “establishing and funding” the team’s bounty program that has cost coach Sean Payton a year’s suspension.
Vilma’s suspension was the longest of those handed down to four players — Cleveland’s Scott Fujita and Green Bay’s Anthony Hargrove, both former Saints, and New Orleans’ Will Smith received lesser penalties. The league said they were most deeply involved in the bounties. The league said its investigation revealed multiple independent sources who confirmed that Vilma twice offered $10,000 of his own money for hits that would knock out an opposing quarterback — Arizona’s Kurt Warner in a divisional playoff game in 2010 and Minnesota’s Brett Favre in the next week’s NFC championship game. His suspension begins immediately.
Hargrove, a defensive lineman, was suspended for the first eight games of the season. The league said Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that confirmed the existence of the bounty program and his participation in it.
The league said its evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Favre was a target, and the league said Hargrove also actively obstructed the investigation when it first began in 2010 by lying to investigators.
Smith, who remains with the Saints, was suspended for the first four games. The league said he, too, assisted Williams in establishing and financing the program and that he pledged “significant sums” to the pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts,” plays in which an opponent was injured.
Fujita, a linebacker who is also a prominent figure in the players’ union, was suspended for the first three games of the season. The NFL said Fujita pledged “a significant amount of money”to the pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 playoffs, the pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for cart-offs and knockouts.
The players are allowed to appeal their suspensions, although only to Commissioner Roger Goodell, because the league said their action was “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL.”
Although the league’s investigation showed that 21 to 27 players participated in the bounty system, the league’s statement said it chose to focus on those who had the highest degree of responsibility and whose conduct merited special attention.
“In assessing player discipline,” Goodell said, “I focused on players who were in leadership positions at the Saints; contributed a particularly large sum of money toward the program; specifically contributed to a bounty on an opposing player; demonstrated a clear intent to participate in a program that potentially injured opposing players; sought rewards for doing so; and/or obstructed the 2010 investigation.”MORE IN Sports WireINDIANAPOLIS — Katherine Legge didn’t know she’d have a shot at the Indianapolis 500 until it was... Full StoryDENVER — Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy is returning to the Colorado Avalanche as their head coach. Full Story
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