NFC East: Saints bounty

The big news today in the NFL is, once again, out of New Orleans, where two current Saints defensive players and two former ones have been suspended for their alleged role in the Saints' bounty programs. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and defensive lineman Will Smith has been suspended for the first four games. Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who was in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles last year and is now with the Packers, is suspended for eight games, and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) is suspended for three.

This all assumes that these suspensions hold up, and we have yet to hear from the NFLPA, which has been arguing for weeks that the league had insufficient evidence to support claims that the players were complicit in administering the bounty programs or that they acted on bounty offers during the games in question. But assuming Vilma and Smith are suspended at all, that's a nice little break for the Washington Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who are scheduled to open the 2012 regular season against the Saints in New Orleans on Sept. 9. While a road game in New Orleans remains a difficult challenge for anyone, especially a rookie quarterback, the Saints' defense obviously becomes somewhat less fearsome if Vilma and Smith aren't on the field.

The other three teams in the NFC East also play the Saints this year, though all are scheduled to do so after Smith's suspension expires. The Eagles open their season Sept. 9 in Cleveland against the Browns, who will be without Fujita if his suspension is upheld.
While the NFL has come down astoundingly hard on the New Orleans Saints for the bounty program involving former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, it does not appear as though the Washington Redskins, who employed Williams as defensive coordinator from 2004-07, are in danger of any kind of penalties. This is from the league's press release announcing the discipline against the Saints and Williams, who is now with the Rams:
While NFL staff has interviewed people in connection with public allegations of bounty programs at other clubs, no evidence was established showing that the programs at other clubs involved targeting opposing players or rewarding players for injuring an opponent. Commissioner Goodell emphasized that if additional information is brought to his attention that discloses bounties offered for injuring specific opposing players, he will revisit the matter to consider additional discipline.

When the league's findings of wrongdoing against the Saints and Williams came to light several weeks ago, it was also reported that the league would look into Williams' activity during his time as Washington's defensive coordinator. Some former players came forward and said that yes, there had been bounty programs under Williams in Washington. But it does not appear as though said programs -- at least as far as the league could find -- were as extensive or sinister as what went on in New Orleans.

The statement above does leave open the possibility of sanctions if new information comes to light and there's proof that the Redskins ever offered players financial rewards for injuring players. But for now, it certainly looks as though the Redskins will not be caught up in this particular scandal or the resulting discipline.

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