Two members of the New Orleans Saints’ defense have been suspended for the season-opener against the Redskins because of their role in the team’s illegal bounty program, the NFL announced Wednesday.
Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the entire 2012 regular season. Defensive end Will Smith is suspended for the first four games. The suspensions are subject to appeal.
From the NFL’s announcement:
The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach [Gregg] Williams in establishing and funding the program. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty — $10,000 in cash – to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.
Smith, a defensive end, assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of opposing players.
In addition to those player suspensions, head coach Sean Payton is suspended for the entire season. Interim coach Joe Vitt, the assistant head coach, is suspended for the first six games. So it appears the NFL did the Redskins a small favor by scheduling their game on opening weekend.