The tension between the NFL and NFL Players' Association over the league's investigation into illegal bounties supplied by New Orleans Saints players and coaches from 2009-2011 could soon be reach Def-Con status. Now that the league has suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season due to his participation in cheap-shots-for-cash initiative.
Three other current and former members of the New Orleans defense hit with multi-game bans: lineman Anthony Hargrove (now a member of the Green Bay Packers) was suspended eight games, defensive end Will Smith was suspended four games, and linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) was suspended three games.
The official findings released by the league detailed the case against each player. Hargrove is cited for "actively obstruct[ing] the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators" before later submitting "a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it." Smith apparently "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," while Fujita -- a member of the NFLPA's executive committee -- "pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs." Vilma allegedly put $10,000 bounties on the heads of Brett Favre and Kurt Warner during the 2009 playoffs.
All four players reportedly plan to appeal the suspensions, and according to Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith, the NFLPA is angling to have a federal judge hear the appeals, rather than simply kicking the decision back to commissioner Roger Goodell.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season last month, while former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams received an indefinite suspension. Saints GM Mickey Loomis was also suspended for eight games.