[Updated at 12:47 p.m. ET] The NFL on Wednesday suspended four current or former New Orleans Saints players for varying lengths – including linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012-2013 season – 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 pay-for-injury program, for which the NFL suspended three coaches and the Saints' general manager earlier this year.
Vilma, a defensive captain, helped the team's defensive coordinator establish and fund the program, the league said in a 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.
In March, the NFL said an investigation found the Saints had an "active bounty program" during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. During this time, players were purportedly offered "bounty" payments if they managed to hurt opposing players and knock them out of a game.
The following are the details of the other players' suspensions:
– Hargrove, a defensive lineman now with the Green Bay Packers, is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the season. The league said Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Favre was a target of a large bounty during January's NFC Championship Game. "Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators," the league said.
– Smith, a Saints defensive end, is suspended without pay for the first four games of the season. Smith, while a defensive captain, assisted the defensive coordinator "in establishing and funding the program," the NFL said. "Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for 'cart-offs' and 'knockouts' of opposing players," the league said.
– Fujita, a linebacker now with the Cleveland Browns, is suspended without pay for the first three games of the season. He "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 league said. "The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for 'cart-offs' and 'knockouts,' plays during which an opposing player was injured."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an NFL news release, "No bounty program can exist without active player participation. 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.”
In March, the NFL handed down an indefinite ban to Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator who, in this past off-season, moved over to take that same position with the St. Louis Rams.
The NFL in March also suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for the 2012-2013 season and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for that season's first eight regular-season games. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games.
The league said in April that it might consider "modifying the forfeiture" of the 2013 draft pick for the Saints, assuming other conditions are met.
Ok, now we know why New Orleans won the Super Bowl. They had to get past Minnesota, and they had to ensure that Brett Favre was not a key element in the game. So they proceeded to injure him with malice. Now would be a good time for Roger Godall to put an * (asterisk) on the championship for that year based on cheating. It would be a slam on all Vikings fans to assume that the successful harm done to Favre in that game had no bearing on the final result. The Vikings had several offensive opportunities at the end of that game to pull it out. However, Favre could not function on the injured ankle that proved to be the difference.
What's more injurious to the outcome of that game was the paralysis of the officiating when it was obvious to the television and stadium audience that the New Orleans Saints were flying around inflicting illegal hits. Many of my friends feel that the NFL was allowing this to allow the hurricane swept New Orleans a present in the way of a Super Bowl. I feel that too!
Nothing short of a full investigation into the officiating non-calls in that game should also be investigated. If this is not done, then a congressional investigation should be forthcoming. We can't have this type of fraud with the paying fans that the league is corrupt from top to bottom. So, fix it and fix it now! Award the Vikings organization a future #1 draft pick from New Orleans and some form of fairness will at least be done.
Are you kidding me? You people are about as ignorant as they come. When you hit an opposing player in football, you give it everything you have. If that player gets hurt on a legal hit, so be it. It's unfortunate, but part of the game. Are you going to hold back on the next guy? No, not if you want to keep your job. I didn't see any more "bad" hits from the Saints players in the past few years than those other teams made. If the Saints, or any other team for that matter, wanted to intentionally injure opponents, they could do it on every play. This did not happen. They are being punished for illegal bonuses for LEGAL hits. Period. By the way, how do you think collegiate players get a helmet full of stickers, by kissing and hugging? C'mon Man! The Saints are simply scapegoats of an NFL facing legal issues. Other teams, past and present, are just as guilty. It's a rough game. Always has been.
You are 90% correct in all your assumptions. However, players who are called for deliberately bad hits are subject to fines and loss of playing time which costs them big bucks... much more than the $10K bonus offered. So you just can't do a deliberate hit and get away with it. But maybe twice a game the player gets a shot at a runners knee or a QB's ribs or shoulder where he can do serious damage. That's what this whole deal is about.
You can make legal hits all you want. You just can't offer bonuses to injure other players. It's a pretty simple concept.
First: Intentionaly trying to cause injuries is wrong. Hard hitting is not.
Second: Where are the referee suspensions. If things were so bad, why were the flags not thrown. Somebody must have broken the rules to deserve these suspensions. If the rules were broken, there should have been penalties called and flags thrown. If not, then ALL of the hits must have been within the current rule structure of the NFL. So if the referees were not doing their job, some of them should have been suspended along with the offending coaches and players.
Third: If you don't want your players to get hit....block better.
It was the act of offering bonuses for injuring players that is the problem here. They didn't have to be successful in injuring a player for it to still be a violation of the rules.
"Come on. So they roughed up a few human bones and tissue."
And what of targeting players returning from concussions? Permanent brain damage would be the result. That's more than ruining a knee.
If you don't love bounties than you are an epic loser of brutal proportions!
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