A full month and then some has passed since the NFL handed down punishment for the coaches and executives involved with the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, and today the league has finally handed down the player punishments.
The NFL statement reads:
Four players – Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma – were notified today 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’ pay-for-performance/bounty program that endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011.
The length of suspension varies for each player and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports:
Scott Fujita suspended three games, Anthony Hargrove suspended eight games, Will Smith suspended four games, Jonathan Vilma suspended 1year.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2012
Why was Vilma singled out by the league, Albert Breer writes:
NFL: "The investigation concluded that while a capt of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing&funding the program"— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 2, 2012
Vilma's suspension begins immediately, while reports indicate that Fujita, Hargrove and Smith may participate throughout the summer until the regular season starts.
Shefter reports that all four players will, in fact, appeal and that it could get ugly:
All 4 player suspensions will be appealed, per source who said, "Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2012
The punishments highlight the league's emphasis on player safety and don't expect much to come of the appeals via the league. These punishments have come down so late for a reason and it would be surprising to see them take a step backward after the length of the investigation.
But a move to legitimate legal battle complicates matters.
Vilma, a nine-year NFL veteran, will lose $2.6 million dollars for missing the entire season. The three-time Pro Bowler is signed in New Orleans through the 2013 season and can apply for reinstatement after the Super Bowl next February. He'll be 31-years old next April.
Expect plenty more to come of this, especially in the case of Vilma, and we'll update when more is known.