Earlier today, it was reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had handed down suspensions for four players involved in the Bountygate scandal: Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita. Vilma received the worst of the punishments, having been suspended for the entire 2012 season.
It has been indicated that all four players will appeal their suspensions, but just how vigorously will they contest the ruling? ”Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts,” said ESPN reporter Adam Schefter earlier on Wednesday.
The NFLPA, the player’s union, has said it will fight the punishments handed down by the league. Vilma, for his part, has steadfastly denied the claims against him, the most serious of which was that he offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who knocked either Kurt Warner or Brett Favre out of the playoffs during the 2009 season. In a statement Wednesday, Vilma said, “I intend to fight this injustice, to defend my reputation, to stand up for my team and my profession, and to send a clear signal to the commissioner that the process has failed, to the detriment of me, my teammates, the New Orleans Saints and the game.”
However, it has now been revealed that former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove signed a written declaration to the league earlier this year acknowledging the existence of the bounty program. Hargrove received an especially stiff punishment – an eight-game suspension – because the league said he obstructed the NFL’s original investigation in 2010.
Ironically, neither Bobby McCray nor Remi Ayodele, the two Saints defenders responsible for a vicious high-low hit on Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship game, were mentioned in today’s ruling. McCray also delivered a crushing, but legal, blow to Kurt Warner during the previous round of the playoffs.
Commissioner Goodell circulated a memo to all 32 NFL teams Wednesday reminding them that all extracurricular payments for on-field performance are expressly forbidden by the league. That even includes off-the-books bonuses for such things as fumble recoveries or pass breakups.