GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 10: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints stands on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 30-20. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Charlie Wilmoth of SB Nation Pittsburgh compiled an interesting piece (via ESPN's Adam Schefter) regarding some reactions of the suspensions in wake of the bounty scandal in New Orleans.
As probably suspected, those reactions were colorful, aggressive and not in support of the verdict handed down by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
OLB James Harrison, the Steeler fined and suspended the most often by Goodell, was at no loss for words concerning the suspensions, as we've come to expect.
Wonder why the Team got the least penalties in Bounty Gate? Think about who elects & rewardedthe commish... it's the owners of the teams!— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) May 2, 2012
It's hard to argue with that point. LB Jonathan Vilma will miss a full year, Packers DL Anthony Hargrove was suspended eight games, Saints DE Will Smith was suspended four games and Browns LB Scott Fujita will miss three games. The Saints were docked two second-round draft picks and fined $500,000.
Upon achieving the roster bonus he no doubt would have achieved, Vilma would have been paid $2.2 million this year.
OLB LaMarr Woodley chimed in as well:
Vilma suspended a whole yr FOR PLAYING FOOTBALL????cmon man!!!!!— LaMarr Woodley (@LaMarrWoodley) May 2, 2012
If the suspensions are indeed extreme, which many have said they are, have been and presumably, will be in the future, at least partial blame lays with the Players Union, and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
Under his watch, the players signed off on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which gives Goodell the authority to do essentially whatever he pleases. They knowingly allowed him to make himself judge, jury and executioner, and that's not an exaggeration.
The players who weren't on the Pittsburgh Steelers at least. The Steelers voted 'no' on the CBA, according to the Tribune-Review (via National Football Post).
Why did the Steelers go against the grain? Many players are not thrilled with the way discipline issues will be handled. Some are a little apprehensive about new testing for HGH.
"There was a level of uncertainty because a lot of guys didn't know what they were signing up for," linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "We had a short time limit to sign everything, so I feel we were rushed."
It's humorous to listen to Smith talk about appealing the decision, and fighting it possibly even into the courts.
According to a Fox News article from Wednesday:
DeMaurice Smith said the union "has still not received any detailed or specific evidence from the league of these specific players' involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program. We have made it clear that punishment without evidence is not fair. We have spoken with our players and their representatives and we will vigorously protect and pursue all options on their behalf."
What options, De? You have no options. The league has no rule stating they have to inform you of why they're being suspended. It doesn't need evidence.
The players allowed this sham of due process is exist, and they have no legal leverage on which to fight what appears to be an extreme penalty for doing something their coaches clearly endorsed and supported.
True, Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, but a reasonably-minded person could conclude rather easily Vilma, Fujita (the team's former player rep and member of the union's executive committee), Smith and Hargrove were doing nothing more than reacting to the culture Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are accused of creating within the Saints locker room.
Too bad the argument will never be made, His Honor has already voted, and the appeal goes straight to him.