NEW ORLEANS — NFL
Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and
Will Smith on Tuesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty
scandal and reduced penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove.
Vilma will sit out the entire season and Smith's punishment stands at four games.
Hargrove, a free agent defensive
lineman, will face a two-game suspension once he signs with a team. He
originally was hit with eight games, but that was reduced to seven with
five games already served. Fujita, who plays for Cleveland, will now
miss only one game instead of three.
The players were implicated in
what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former defensive coordinator
Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured
opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended
to injure anyone.
Only Smith and Fujita have played
this season because an appeal panel created by the NFL's labor
agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds and
informed Goodell that he needed to clarify the reasons for the
Vilma has been recovering from offseason knee surgery and hopes to return in two weeks when the Saints play at Tampa Bay.
The players can further delay
their suspensions by appealing again through their labor contract. They
could also ask a federal judge in New Orleans to revisit their earlier
request for an injunction blocking the suspensions.
"The quality, specificity and
scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental are
far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such
cases," Goodell said in a memorandum to the 32 clubs.
"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."