The National Football League has announced that New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the duration of the 2012 season for his involvement in the Saints' illegal bounty program.
Vilma's suspension begins immediately.
According to official release from the NFL, their investigation found that Vilma assisted former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in "establishing and funding" the program. Vilma offered $10,000 cash to any player that knocked Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of their 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and offered the same amount to any player that knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
Vilma is eligible to apply for reinstatement following the 2013 Super Bowl. After a contract restructure last month, Vilma is scheduled to earn $1.6 million base salary, a $600,000 roster bonus and $100,000 workout bonus in 2012.
In addition to Vilma, current Saints defensive end Will Smith was suspended for four games as he also assisted Williams in "establishing and funding" the program during a period in which he was a team captain and a leader on defense. Smith also pledged "significant sums" to the pool. Smith renegotiated his contract in March and will forfeit $194,117 of his $825,000 base salary.
Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove has been suspended for eight games. Hargrove, who played last season for the Seattle Seahawks and signed a one-year contract with the Green Bay Packers, signed an declaration to the league that the program existed and that he was active participant. Hargrove also obstructed the league's investigation in 2010.
If upheld, Hargrove's suspension would cost him 8/17ths his $825,000 base salary, or $388,235.
Other former Saints players to be suspended include current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who was suspended for three games after the investigation showed that he pledged "a significant amount of money" to the program during the 2009 NFL Playoffs.
Futjia is scheduled to earn $3.65 million in base salary and would forfeit $644,118 in base salary if his suspension is not reduced.
Each player has three days to appeal NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision.
Smith, Fujita and Hargrove may participate in the team's off-season activity, including pre-season games before their suspension will take effect.
"It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced," Commissioner Goodell said. "Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field."
The National Football League also sent a memo to all 32 NFL teams today re-emphasizing that any program of non-contract bonuses is a violation of team rules. Each NFL coach will be required to review the relevant league rules with his players and assistant coaches and players will have an outlet with which they can confidentially report any violations of such rules.