Vilma suspended for entire year

The NFL handed down punishments for the New Orleans Saints' Bountygate program, suspending Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season without pay. The league also suspended Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove for eight games without pay, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games without pay and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita for three games without pay.

The league also suspended Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove for eight games without pay, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games without pay and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita for three games without pay.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and coach Sean Payton are suspended for the entire season.

"The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program," the NFL announce. "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."

As for Hargrove, the NFL stated that he "submitted 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. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators."

The NFL announced that Smith "assisted 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.

The NFL said Fujita: "pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for "cart-offs" and "knockouts," plays during which an opposing player was injured."

"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," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field."

"In assessing player discipline, I focused on players who were in leadership positions at the Saints; contributed a particularly large sum of money toward the program; specifically contributed to a bounty on an opposing player; demonstrated a clear intent to participate in a program that potentially injured opposing players; sought rewards for doing so; and/or obstructed the 2010 investigation."

Each of the four players disciplined today met one or more of those criteria, Commissioner Goodell said. "No bounty program can exist without active player participation,"

Commissioner Goodell said. "The evidence clearly showed that the players being held accountable today willingly and enthusiastically embraced the bounty program. Players put the vast majority of the money into this program and they share responsibility for playing by the rules and protecting each other within those rules." In a memo sent to NFL clubs today, Commissioner Goodell re-emphasized that any program of non-contract bonuses, however it is characterized, is a violation of league rules.

For more coverage of the NFL, go to profootball.scout.com. Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider

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