Dec 18, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) argues for a call towards referee Walt Anderson (51) during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Saints defeated the Vikings 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Bountygate Player Suspensions Doled Out

See the guy in the photo above? Good!

Because you will NOT be seeing him on the field in 2012.

The NFL office handed out suspensions for Bountygate today and this fall there will be a 2 Saints that won’t go marchin’ into anywhere for a while.

Saints’ linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season – effective immediately – and three others received lesser suspensions. WITHOUT pay. DE Will “Fresh Price” Smith will miss the first four contests.

This will be welcome news for Cam and the rest of the Panthers, who take on the weakened Saints’ defensive unit in week 2, a perfect spot for the Panthers to avoid any emotional highs of “us-against-the-world” the Saints players will probably have coming into the first week. It’s now a game the Panthers SHOULD win.

Current Packer DE Anthony Hargrove will miss 8 games and Scott Fujita, now a Brown, will miss the first three.

All four are suspended without pay.

I think the lesson here that the league is sending out is quite clear from a financial standpoint. It’ll cost Vilma over $3 million dollars even after he agreed to a pay cut for this season, perhaps in anticipation of the penalty.

Seriously, when I first learned of this “bounty program” going on (along with everyone else), my first thought was “Were the players really THAT stupid to do such things for so little money, compared to what their salaries are? Ten grand is Chump Change for the risks of being found out!”

I’m sure many of the readers of this website had similar thoughts. It wasn’t exactly a reach to get the idea in the first place.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the issue, saying “In assessing player discipline, 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.”

2010. Has it been that long? Sure doesn’t seem like it, does it?

Goodell continued. “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 other words, Roger here is saying he’s punishing the ones who led the team in general and who put the money up, specifically. What he didn’t say was what I said.

They were idiots to do it in the first place. Ten grand to “knock Brett Favre out of the game?” What’s 3,000,000 divided by 16? Gotta be twice ten grand, at least!

Actually, Vilma’s REDUCED salary for this year was to be a reported 3.3 million. That’s roughly 200 grand per game. Break it down further, if your defense is on the field for 50 plays, that’s $4,000 per play.

The math says Vilma makes a “bounty” every 2 or 3 plays just for showing up. I guess that explains how he could FINANCE the thing, since the bounty was peanuts anyway. I’d have laughed in their faces if I were a player and this hare-brained scheme was cooked up over the lunch money offered alone…not to mention the fact I’d have (privately) pointed out in no uncertain terms the risk/reward here is not too good if we’re caught.

Apparently, that never happened. The Defensive Uncoordinator at the time, Gregg Williams, ran the scheme from 2009 to 2011. The investigation began in 2010, if Goodell is accurate.

Williams has been justifiably banned from the NFL indefinitely, meaning he still has a chance of being let back in after a laundry list of hoops for him to jump through is completed.

Hmm.

Well, the Saints apparently have no spies in the league office if they were still running the scheme after the investigation had begun. That’s the good news for the NFL.

The bad news is this scandal occurred just as Goodell and the NFL in general have been trying to raise awareness over head trauma/concussions among players. Twenty or even ten years ago, everyone involved might have gotten off with a hefty fine with Head Defensive Scourge Williams possibly getting a 1-yr suspension plus a fine. In this climate? Uh-uh. No, no, noooooooooo.

My own reaction to the suspensions without pay is to ask the question, “Do the Saints just keep the salary money in the bank or will Goodell have them donate it to charity of some sort?”

I’d think if the Commish really wants to drive home his point, he’d have the future un-issued paychecks of these athletes go to the fund for injured and retired players. I know that at least one such program exists from news tidbits I’ve heard before and also I think (don’t quote me on this part) there’s something in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement regarding it.

If not, $3.3 million dollars would be some nice seed money for such an endeavor and would come from quite the appropriate source.

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Tags: Anthony Hargrove Gregg Williams Jonathan Vilma Scott Fujita Will Smith

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