4 Saints Suspended in Bounty Program

Jonathan Vilma banned for the season
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2012 12:32 PM CDT
This Oct. 30, 2011 file photo shows New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on the sideline during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, in St. Louis.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

(Newser) – The NFL isn't just coming down on the coaches in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal: Four players were suspended without pay today, ESPN reports. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the entire season, while defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer) received an eight-game suspension, defensive end Will Smith four games, and linebacker Scott Fujita (now a Cleveland Brown) three games. Vilma and Smith are alleged to have helped Gregg Williams create and fund the program, Fujita and Vilma are alleged to have pledged significant funds to it, and Hargrove—who eventually admitted to the NFL that he was a part of the program—is accused of obstructing the NFL investigation into the matter.

"No bounty program can exist without active player participation," reads the league statement. "Players put the vast majority of the money into this program and they share responsibility for playing by the rules and protecting each other within those rules." All four plan to appeal, says an NFL source, who notes, "Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts." And Saints running back Mark Ingram tweeted that the suspensions will just motivate the team: "Don't worry they just makin us hungrier and puttin a bigger chip on or shoulder!! #WHODATNATION will rise above it!! #believedat."

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