Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the National Football League’s punishment of four players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case, including a season-long suspension for linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Vilma will serve their bans after Goodell informed them that he hasn’t seen any reason to soften the punishments despite multiple opportunities for the men to present their version of events.
“Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions,” Goodell wrote in a letter to the players excerpted in a league news release.
The NFL Players Association said in a statement that it was “disappointed with the league’s conduct during this process.”
“We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement,” the union said. “Moreover, the commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.”
In May, Goodell suspended Vilma without pay for the 2012 season; Hargrove, a defensive lineman now with the Green Bay Packers, for eight games; Smith, a defensive end, for four games; and Fujita, a linebacker now with the Cleveland Browns, for three games.
The NFL in April handed down the stiffest punishment ever imposed on a team and its leadership for the bounty program. Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, General Manager Mickey Loomis was given a half-season suspension, assistant coach Joe Vitt received a six-game ban and the franchise was stripped of two draft picks and fined $500,000.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely for administering the program, which the NFL said paid players as much as $1,500 for a “knockout” in which an opposing player was unable to return to the game and $1,000 for a “cart off” in which opponents were carried from the field.
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