The NFL suspended Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove due to their participation in the “bounty” program. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for 2012-13 season without pay.
There is no question that players that participated in “bountygate” should be punished. They must be held responsible for their actions on the field, regardless of the pressure they might have felt to conform to the barbaric culture defensive coordinator Greg Williams established. However, I do question how Roger Goodell determined the severity of the various punishments.
By suspending Vilma for a year without pay, the NFL is in essence saying he is as responsible for the bounty program as his boss; head coach Sean Payton. Roger Goodell also held Vilma more accountable than general manager Mickey Loomis who received a six game suspension. Many reports indicate Vilma had a leadership role in the bounty program, providing large amounts of money for “knockout” shots. He definitely deserves a harsh penalty. At the same time, this was a program created and promoted by Payton, he could have ended bounty gate at anytime. Vilma, short of whistle blowing to the league, (does the league have a whistle-blower program?) didn’t have the power to end the program, so why is he punished as if he did? Also, what about the other 20+ players involved? Clearly Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith weren’t the only participants. What kept the other players from getting fined or suspended?
Of course this isn’t the end of “bountygate”. The NFLPA has announced they will appeal the suspensions. I’m sure part of that appeal will be why Jonathan Vilma was punished as harsh, if not more, than the people who employ him.