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Eli Manning says Roger Goodell did the right thing in suspending Saints players

The NFL Players Association can’t be all that pleased with Eli Manning at the moment. As we all know, the idea of a union is to be cohesive. If certain members of the union support what the other side is trying to do, the union’s position becomes weaker. On Wednesday, Roger Goodell and the NFL handed out suspensions to four current and former Saints players for their involvement in the bounty program. The NFLPA fully intends to fight those suspensions, but from the sound of it they won’t have the support of one of their most prominent members.

“I think (Goodell is) doing the right thing to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again,” Manning said during a conference call about his upcoming Saturday Night Live appearance. “There’s no room for any type of bounty system in the N.F.L. You have to respect the game.

“I think he’s been harsh to try and prove, to make a statement, that there is no place for this in the game of football.”

Jonathan Vilma, who has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, strongly disagrees with Manning. All four players who were suspended are appealing, and the Players Union has made it clear that they feel the punishments handed out were far too harsh. While I tend to agree with Manning if the information revealed in the investigation is accurate, it is surprising to see a player side with the commissioner before the league has heard the NFLPA’s appeals.

H/T Pro Football Talk
Photo credit: Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Four Saints players suspended over bounties, Jonathan Vilma for entire year

The commissioner has spoken, once again. As expected, his voice was heard clearly across the NFL world. The NFL announced on Wednesday morning that four current and former Saints players have been suspended for their roles in the Saints bounty system. Jonathan Vilma has been banned for the entire 2012 season while defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove was given an eight-game suspension, defensive end Will Smith a four-game suspension, and linebacker Scott Fujita a three-game ban.

Fujita is now with the Browns and Hargrove is with the Packers. While many believe Gregg Williams should shoulder most — if not all — of the blame for running a bounty system, Goodell and company clearly do not agree. Vilma and Sean Payton will both miss all of 2012, and the NFL has suspended current and former Saints players, coaches, and officials a total of 61 regular-season games since the offseason began.

Vilma, who currently has a picture of the Sports Illustrated bounty scandal cover as his Twitter avatar, was believed to be far more than just a participant in the program. He once reportedly placed $10,000 on a locker room table and told his teammates it would go to anyone who could knock Brett Favre out of a 2010 playoff game. As we saw from Favre’s ankle injury a couple of seasons ago, the cash may have inspired his teammates.

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Steve Smith says a Saints player admitted he targeted his ankles out of bounds

Another day, another awakening accusation regarding the Saints bounty program. This time, the alleged victim is Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. During an interview with Dave Dameshek of NFL.com, Smith said he has always known about Gregg Williams’ bounty programs and that a Saints player once admitted to targeting him during a game.

“I actually had an altercation with a guy who told me firsthand,” Smith explained without naming the player. “I was going out of bounds, and the guy went for my ankle. I said, ‘Hey, man, cut that out.’ He’s like, ‘Well, we get fined if we don’t go after your legs when you go out of bounds.’ … And actually this past year, this last game when we played them, I had a little conversation with Gregg Williams. … He took responsibility, he was saying it wasn’t right, but that’s who he was.”

This sounds like more of the same, but it’s interesting that Smith said the player claimed he would be fined if he didn’t go for his legs out of bounds. To this point, most of what we heard centers on being paid for “kill shots” and injuring an opponent. We haven’t heard anything about being fined if you don’t try to injure an opponent. That certainly wouldn’t shock anyone, but it would add another disturbing element to the storyline.

H/T to NFL.com’s Around the League
Photo credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE

Introducing your highly inappropriate Brett Favre Saints bounty t-shirt (Picture)

Opinions regarding the Saints bounty program have been mixed since the second the allegations came to light. Some people believe New Orleans is taking the fall for something that is a common practice across the NFL, while others feel that the pregame speeches Gregg Williams gave and the program he had in place were a disgrace to the game. Then there are those fans who make light of the entire situation. You know, the die hards who would come up with a t-shirt like this:

The shirt is referring to this nasty injury Brett Favre suffered back in 2010 when he was playing against the Saints with the Vikings. It has since been revealed that a Saints player was heard yelling, “Pay me the money!” after Favre suffered the ankle injury. From the look of it, the person who designed the t-shirt you see above wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo via Darren Rovell on Twitter

Fran Tarkenton implies that ‘gangster rap’ contributes to NFL violence

If we sat here and wrote about every person who has blasted Gregg Williams and the Saints for running a bounty program, we would never write about anything else. However, some reactions are just more noteworthy than others. Take former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton for example, who blamed Williams for Peyton Manning’s initial neck injury during a recent interview. He also offered an interesting take on the violent culture that has overtaken the NFL.

“I think (people who say the NFL has gone soft are) out of line,” Tarkenton said when speaking to ESPN Chicago’s Waddle and Silvy. “I think it’s the gangster rap and this and this and all the stuff and we are going to go out and knock their head sideways. It’s all wrong.”

Damn kids and their sideways hats and their boom boxes and gold chains. You want to stop the violence across the NFL? Go after the rap industry first. While that comment was my personal favorite from Tarkenton’s interview, his comments about Williams and Manning were intriguing as well.

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Former Saint Hollis Thomas says it was a pool that paid for ‘kill shots,’ not a bounty

At some point, the dust from the Saints bounty scandal will settle. As the Patriots can tell you from their Spygate experiences, it will never quite go away. As far as the immediate future is concerned, things will probably get worse before they get better in New Orleans. Gregg Williams’ disturbing playoff speech that was released last week can in a way be considered the climax of the situation, but former and current players will continue to weigh in throughout the offseason.

Some former Saints and players from other Williams programs have acknowledged that the bounty programs existed, while others claim to know nothing about it. Former New Orleans defensive lineman Hollis Thomas, who was with the team from 2006-2008, tried to find a middle ground when discussing the bounties. His explanation was a bit puzzling.

“It’s a pool. It’s not even a bounty, it’s a pool that you put in,” Hollis said during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. “And it’s like every defense on any team, you all have a set of goals. No. 1 goal is to hold the team to 17 points or less, get two turnovers, hit the quarterback at least five or six times and have two sacks. No explosive runs and no explosive passes. And the final one is win, win, win. Do all of that, you might have some different criteria for the defensive guys, like quarterback hits are worth this, kill shots are worth this. You know? But everybody keeps saying bounty — it’s pretty much a pool.”

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Gregg Williams urges players to target Alex Smith’s head, Michael Crabtree’s ACL (Audio)

If Gregg Williams was hoping a return to the NFL is in his future, the audio clip that is making the internet rounds on Thursday will do nothing to help his case. We have heard the rumors and stories about Williams telling his players to target particular body parts, so none of this should come a shock and much of it is just locker room banter. It will, however, make Williams look even worse in the eyes of Roger Goodell.

The following audio clip features language that is extremely NSFW, but is definitely worth a listen if you want to know the type of stuff that Williams said to his defense prior to games. The clip, which was shared by Yahoo! Sports, was recorded by documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon. Pamphilon directed the “Run Ricky Run” documentary that was featured on ESPN. He had access to some Saints team functions during the 2011 season and recorded the audio the night before the playoff game between the Saints and Niners. It provides pretty clear evidence that Williams wanted his players to target Alex Smith’s head and Michael Crabtree’s ACL, among other disturbing demands. Have a listen:

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