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Saints Bounty Program: How Suspensions Affect New Orleans' Super Bowl Chances

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23:  Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints calls a defensive play during a game against the Indianapolis Colts being held at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 23, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Colts 62-7. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2012

The New Orleans Saints will have to come marching in without Jonathan Vilma for the entirety of the 2012 season and Will Smith for the first four games.

Wow.

Roger Goodell has handed out player suspensions in the Bountygate scandal, and along with Vilma and Smith, former Saints Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer) and Scott Fujita (now a Cleveland Brown) also face suspensions.

ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted the duration of each suspension:

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

Between the suspensions handed out to Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and to these players, it's starting to look unlikely that the Saints will be a Super Bowl contender next season. I'm not sure this team can overcome the losses or, perhaps more accurately, the distractions this scandal continues to bring.

Remember, Drew Brees' status remains up in the air alongside all of the madness that has come with Bountygate. Stability isn't exactly the word of the day in New Orleans.

Smith was second on the Saints in sacks last season, finishing with 6.5 in 14 games. Vilma was sixth on the team in tackles, finishing with 54 in 11 games.

It could have been worse—the Saints could have lost more players than just two, and they'll turn to players down the roster to fill in the gaps. They added linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne in free agency, likely in anticipation of a lengthy suspension for Vilma.

Still, the losses of Vilma and Smith will be felt.

It's clear that Roger Goodell is setting an example with these suspensions, namely with the season-long suspension Vilma is facing. Vilma has long been the public face of Bountygate in terms of players involved (via NFL.com):

According to a Sports Illustrated report from March, Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to any player who could knock out then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre from the 2009 NFC Championship Game. During that game Favre endured a number of gruesome hits, and he suffered a nasty ankle injury late in the game.

I've got no problem with the punishments levied against these players—the message needs to be sent that an institutionalized intent to injure has absolutely no place in the NFL.

If it costs the Saints a chance at a Super Bowl this season—and I can't imagine this team recovering from one of the most tumultuous offseasons I've ever seen in the NFL—so be it.

 

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets make moves like Bill Belichick.

Follow TRappaRT on Twitter

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