NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed suspensions to the players allegedly involved in the Saints’ bounty program, with some adjustments.
The season-long suspension for Saints LB Jonathan Vilma and four-game suspension for Saints DE Will Smith are unchanged, though Vilma receives his salary for the six weeks he spent on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Browns LB Scott Fujita had his suspension reduced from three games to one. Free-agent DE Anthony Hargrove’s eight-game suspension was cut down to seven games. He will be credited for the five games he missed while a free agent and serve a two-game suspension when he is signed.
“The Saints’ bounty program operated over a three-year period and offered incentives to players for plays including 'cart-offs' and 'knock-outs,' which were plays that caused injuries to opponents,” Goodell wrote in a memo to clubs.
On Sept. 7, an Appeals Panel vacated the suspensions that Goodell originally handed down and had them remanded back to Goodell for “expeditious redetermination” of penalties if there is evidence of “intent to injure.”
“In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story,” Goodell wrote. “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”
The suspended players can appeal the discipline.
The NFLPA released the following statement in response to the discipline:
“For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake.
“We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance.”
Goodell wrote each player an individual letter in addition to a memo to all 32 clubs. The links to the full texts of those are below.