Three other players -- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith -- in addition to Vilma were notified that they have been suspended without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their leadership roles in the "bounty" program that endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011.
The discipline breaks down, per a league release, as follows:
• Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions.
• Linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) is suspended without pay for the first three games.
• Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games.
• Will Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games.
The NFL further reported:
Saints' receiver Lance Moore tweeted: "I wish I could say what I want to say right now, but I know that all eyes are on us right now. I'll just say it sucks, but we'll be fine!
The players are expected to appeal, and will have three days to appeal the punishments.
“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.”
“No bounty program can exist without active player participation,” Goodell added. “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.”
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by Ed Staton