There were 22 to 27 players on the New Orleans Saints defense accused of participating in bounties, but Jonathan Vilma was the only one singled out. If this ends up being true, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to suspend Vilma for a lengthy time during the 2012 season.
In the report on the Saints bounties, Vilma was said to have offered $10,000 of his own money to any of his defensive teammates who could take out Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre from the 2009 NFC Championship game.
In an interview with ESPN 1500 Radio in Minnesota (h/t ESPN.com writer Kevin Seifert), Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said that he’d like to see Vilma punished, with the possibility of him being kicked out of the game:
"I think this is a spot," Kluwe said, "where the [NFLPA] definitely has to take a stand and say, 'Look, you put other guys' livelihoods in danger. You're jeopardizing other guys' chances to play.' Football is violent enough as it is. It's hard enough to stay healthy in the league and so by maliciously trying to hurt people they need to show, we need to show, that there's no place in the game for that kind of behavior."
Kluwe is half right in his thoughts about what should happen to Vilma. He’s absolutely correct in saying “football is violent enough as it is. It’s hard enough to stay healthy in the league.”
Players run the risk of suffering a number of injuries on any play in a game. You have some of the best athletes in the world running at full speed with the purpose of hitting their opponent as hard as they can. So at any point, a player’s career could be ended.
However, Kluwe is wrong thinking that Vilma should be banned for life.
Goodell has to give Vilma a lengthy suspension. The commissioner already has handed down an indefinite suspension to Gregg Williams, who was the Saints defensive coordinator during the bounties. Plus, Goodell handed down a year-long suspension to Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Goodell shouldn’t kick Vilma out of the league for being the only player named in the report. Instead, a six-to-eight game suspension, plus a six-figure fine, would be the right punishment for the crime.
The NFL cannot have their world-class athletes running around with an extra motive to injure someone.
However, Vilma is the face of the players involved in “Bountygate.” He has to be suspended so that it sends the right message to the other players in the league that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.