Saints’ top two defenders get suspended; Vilma for season

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (right).  AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (right). AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended four players for their participation in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program on Wednesday.

Linebacker Scott Fujita, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who played at Georgia Tech, defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan 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 New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.

Smith and Vilma are arguable the Saints’ top two defenders. Fujita now plays for Cleveland and Hargrove signed with Green Bay this offseason. Smith will be back by the time the Falcons face the Saints in their first meeting on Nov. 11 in New Orleans.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in action (Rusty Costanza/The Times-Picayune)

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in action (Rusty Costanza/The Times-Picayune)

The bounty program was deemed to endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011. Participation by players in any such program is prohibited by the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, the standard NFL Player Contract, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

  • Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) is suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2012 regular season. The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, 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 pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for “cart-offs” and “knockouts,” plays during which an opposing player was injured.
  • Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.
  • Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 regular season. Smith, a defensive end, assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of opposing players.
  • Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions. The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program. 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 (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.

The Saints signed former Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency. He’ll likely take over for Vilma.

Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith may participate in all off-season activity, including preseason games, prior to the suspensions taking effect. Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days. If an appeal is filed, commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.

“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,” commissioner Goodell said. “Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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78 comments Add your comment

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
2:38 pm

*Inhales Deeply*

BWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
2:39 pm

DOL

You think you can suspend Matt “Choke” Ryan for a season? That would be wonderful.

FL Jacket

May 2nd, 2012
2:45 pm

Not a good day for the NFL…

First…the suspension of Saints coaches and players. Second…Junior Seau found dead in California of apparent gunshot wound.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 2nd, 2012
2:45 pm

Big Lou — U STOP IT!!! Ryan had career-highs in yards (4,177), touchdown passes (29) and passer rating (92.9) last season. His yardage total eclipsed the old franchise mark of 4,143, which was held by Jeff George. Most notably is that Ryan has led the Falcons on 16 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.

T Rob

May 2nd, 2012
2:49 pm

Big Lou you need to be suspended for a year like Vilma….. you make a great Saints fan

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
2:50 pm

DOL

I am talking about the user Matt “Choke” Ryan whole trolls on YOUR boards the whole season–not the actual QB.

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
2:50 pm

I guess you just ignore the fact he jumps on here and insults Matt Ryan for like 5,000 posts, right?

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
2:51 pm

FL Jacket

May 2nd, 2012
2:51 pm

Mr. D…

Was Anthony Hargrove the player who ended up being the “informant”?

Easter Beagle

May 2nd, 2012
3:05 pm

Big Lou should be locked in a room and forced to watch tapes of Harrington, Johnson, Kittner and Kim McQuilken at QB.

Terrernce X

May 2nd, 2012
3:11 pm

Saint players and coaches deserve what they got. falcons 4 straight winning seasons for the first time in my lifetime. unsatisfied fans should be ones suspended LOU!

ToccoaBird

May 2nd, 2012
3:12 pm

Big Lou was actually taking UP for the falcons and talking about a troll by that name. Relax guys. As for the Aints, the whole team should have been suspended for a year. This was from the top down in that organization.

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
3:13 pm

Wow…

This board is so clueless. This is why I never post on here.

I AM TALKING ABOUT THE USER MATT “CHOKE” RYAN.

You know, the troll who posts a bunch of crap about how Matt Ryan has a noodle arm.

I have a Matt Ryan jersey and am a huge fan of him. Man… minds slow as molasses in here.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 2nd, 2012
3:14 pm

FL Jacket — I have not seen any credible evidence on the “informant.”

Big Lou

May 2nd, 2012
3:14 pm

ToccoaBird

Thank you! Go Falcons!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 2nd, 2012
3:17 pm

Big Lou and ToccoaBird – My bad. I see that now. Ummmmm, nevermind.

tbhawksfan

May 2nd, 2012
3:23 pm

The NFL has a Constitution and hearings. Welcome to the present, where corporations and associations have the power of Government. We’re screwed. Do you have to forgo your previous nationality to enter the NFL? Boy, do we need reforms to put the companies back in their place. Today, they have more rights than people. These companies should be under the law, not law makers. Shouldn’t the NFL be held accountable as they are the employer that enabled this outrageous behavoir.

THE FAN

May 2nd, 2012
3:31 pm

I though it was said that it was 22 to 27 players involved in bounty gate, are they going to get punished as well?

eturn

May 2nd, 2012
3:35 pm

Big Lou you have a point there…. where are all the falcon bashers who love the saints…Been quiet lately.

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ToccoaBird

May 2nd, 2012
3:38 pm

tbhawksfan, So the NFL shouldn’t protect their players? This is all they are doing and I agree with it even if the Falcons had done it.

StatesBurr

May 2nd, 2012
3:42 pm

I actually give you grief on here but a “Thank You” for taking up for Matt Ryan” who did this with no time in the pocket.

Falcons 4 Real

May 2nd, 2012
3:46 pm

RIP Junior Seau, what a shocker.

tbhawksfan

May 2nd, 2012
3:49 pm

Toccoa; no. The laws of the land should be applied and they should be charged with assault with intent to harm. When the law doesn’t do it’s job and corporations are judge and jury, something is very wrong.

Chub Rock

May 2nd, 2012
4:01 pm

The real punishment has not even been served yet. The real punishment will be taken out on the Saints QB for his team targeting others teams QB for injury. Drew Brees will not play a full season this year even if he does finally get a contract. Must of his time will be spent on IR with his knees getting sewn back together. This is so much bigger than just Falcons-Saints rivalry. The actions of the Saints defense has now made them the blood rival of every team in the league. Kinda like when Margarito cheated on Cotto. When Pacquiao and Mosley fought Margarito, they tried to kill his ass. The same thing will happen to Drew Brees. :)

FEATHEREDFRIEND

May 2nd, 2012
4:16 pm

Seeing as how they now have our best Lb’er to replace their best Lb’er and depth at D.E. , it doesn’t seem like much for them . I think they went 13-3 last year with Payton sitting in the upper deck watching.

FEATHEREDFRIEND

May 2nd, 2012
4:19 pm

@ Chub Rock. – It’s the NFL not the barrio or P’tree Ind Blvd or Smyrna. Players are not gonna do that and face fines and suspensions themselves just to get even.

4evadrtybrd

May 2nd, 2012
4:26 pm

Living in the New Orleans metro area, like I do, has recently been pure misery for this bird fan born in south georgia. I wish you could hear them whining and griping about how unfairly they are being treated these days. I wish I had a penny for every time I heard someone say, “every team does it, so why punish us so harshly (actually their speach isn’t quite so refined [at all]). Cajun lingo has never sounded sweeter. Sweeter than a mocking bird singing on a cool April morning.

FalconsWillWin

May 2nd, 2012
4:31 pm

where’s seenthisb4 at BAAAAHAAAAA

FEATHEREDFRIEND

May 2nd, 2012
4:36 pm

I , too , lived there and still travel once a month for business . I usually spend 2-3 days at a time in the Cbd and do hear some things like you mention but not to the extreme that you are talking about. Are you sure you are not still in South Ga. and just doing some wishful thinking ? I dislike the Saints but their fans are far more dedicated than any fans I’ve seen in any town I’ve lived in for more than a year and there has been quite a few with NFL teams.

Parade of Knuckleheads

May 2nd, 2012
4:53 pm

.. and the sAints also
got an F on their 2012 NFL Draft report card.

Sly Ty

May 2nd, 2012
5:10 pm

@Everyone, I can’t believe Drew Brees, the leader of their team, was totally unaware of what was happening. How could he not be aware, and why is he getting a pass.

FEATHEREDFRIEND

May 2nd, 2012
5:23 pm

Probably because it’s the truth . The O guys and the D guys are a seperate entity in the locker room. He probably heard rumors too but thats about it. I also saw where the Saints got a C on their draft-same as us !

Terrernce X

May 2nd, 2012
5:30 pm

by bad big lou – how was possed to know that

Falcon Fan

May 2nd, 2012
5:42 pm

I don’t think the Saints will be that bad like everyone is saying. Yeah, other teams may want blood, but if they are not better than the Saints it doesn’t really matter. Hope these coordinators make a big difference or we might get beat twice this year by the Saints. Hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see them that much weaker. Now unless they can’t sign Brees and he misses some games, that would be interesting….

SeenThisB4

May 2nd, 2012
5:43 pm

Enter your comments here

SeenThisB4

May 2nd, 2012
5:46 pm

Falcons are even lucky to make it to a 7-9 record this season! Y’all schedule look mighty tough, and besides it doesn’t matter how much help you get from the league, We still have the best offense in the league!! SAINTS WILL WIN THE DIVISION 13-3!!! WHO DATT??!!!! WE DAT!!!! LETSS GO SAINTS TIME TO PUT OUR RALLY CAP ON AN PROVE TO THE NFL WE NOT BACKIN DOWN!!!

SeenThisB4

May 2nd, 2012
5:49 pm

GO SAINTS!!
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GO SAINTS!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!
WHO DAT??!!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

THE FAN — From reading the release, it’s clear that they were punishing the reputed “ring leaders.”

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 2nd, 2012
5:52 pm

tbhawksfan — That sounds look a good labor law hypo for a law school exam.

SeenThisB4

May 2nd, 2012
5:55 pm

@falconswillwin- What have the falcons won??? lol

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:03 pm

yea who dat aint coaching and ,or playing this year answer that 2 two cent bounty nut see dis be five go birds

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:06 pm

what did the saints win fairly SawDat B5

mrzizzle

May 2nd, 2012
6:08 pm

Love the fact the Saints Super Bowl will have a (*) by it for cheating. That organization has no class! GO FALCONS!

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:10 pm

iseen that onece,twice ,three times oh no the commish found out GOTTA GO

FEATHEREDFRIEND

May 2nd, 2012
6:12 pm

Looking at the facts which are , Payton won’t be coaching- he didn’t much last year with Carmicheal running the O and they went 13-3 . Vilma was noticably slower last year and now they have our best LB in Lofton taking his spot -upgrade in their favor. Smith out 4 games but they do have some depth ther so thats a wash. The only thing that may slow them down is all the drama but thats probably a wash too. I think Brees not signing yet is a plan on their part to where they are after suspensions and what if any money will be needed for replacements -none . Watch and see if Brees contract doesn’t gety done real soon now that they know where they stand!

billyho55

May 2nd, 2012
6:14 pm

GREAT ARTICLE AS ALWAYS D! JUST A HUGE MESS WITH THE PUNISHMENT FOR THE WIRE TAPPING STILL TO COME!!

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:15 pm

I am the police on this site I will not tolerate any negative remarks about my home State Falcons so DLed send them to ME MAKE YOURSELF CLEAR little lou

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:17 pm

Dont worry about Lofton He cant cover any body

take bad with good

May 2nd, 2012
6:21 pm

I got 10 dollars to tape up any saints mouth with duct tape,and 20 to snatch it off