The New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal has resulted in four player suspensions -- a move that may eventually lead to a lawsuit against the NFL, a source tells ESPN.
"All 4 player suspensions will be appealed, per source who said, 'Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts,'" ESPN's NFL expert Adam Schefter reported via Twitter.
The NFL player suspensions, announced Wednesday, are without pay. The suspended players are:
- Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who will sit out the entire 2012 season;
- Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, who is suspended for eight games;
- Defensive end Will Smith, who is suspended for four games; and
- Linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, who is suspended for three games.
Under NFL rules, the players can appeal their Saints bounty scandal suspensions within three days, ESPN reports. All but Vilma can still participate in preseason and offseason activities, according to Schefter.
An NFL investigation uncovered the extent of the Saints' bounty program, in which players received cash bonuses for injuring their opponents during NFL games between 2009 and 2011. As many as 27 Saints players took part in the bounty program, according to the NFL.
So why are only four players being suspended? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answered that in a statement, saying:
"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."
As for the suspended players' appeals, they may focus on an alleged lack of sufficient evidence -- a charge the NFL Players Association brought up at a meeting with the NFL last month, NFL.com reports.
In the Saints bounty scandal, the NFL has already suspended coach Sean Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and interim coach Joe Vitt. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was also punished, and the team was fined $500,000.
- NFL suspends 4 players for Saints' bounties (The Associated Press)
- Saints Bounty Appeal Denied by NFL, Payton Must Sit Out This Season (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- Saints Eavesdropping: GM Mickey Loomis Had Illegal Wiretap (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton Suspended (FindLaw's Houston Employment Law Blog)