NFL MAN OF THE YEAR: Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten wins prestigious Walter Payton and Bart Starr awards
Jason Witten’s offseason of recognition continues.
The veteran Dallas Cowboys tight end was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year on Saturday. The award recognizes community service and playing excellence.
The announcement was made during the NFL Honors presentation, which will air on CBS at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Also this week, Witten was presented the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership in the community, at home and on the field. Last weekend, he made his eighth Pro Bowl game appearance.
“I am extremely flattered to be chosen the 2012 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year from such an esteemed group of nominees,” Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I work hard every day not only to be a success on the football field and a credit to my team – but to be a good husband, father, son, grandson, teammate, to be the kind of man that is as respected as Walter Payton was.
“Like others before me, I have a great opportunity as an NFL player to make a difference in the lives of others. It is honestly humbling to be recognized in such a manner for simply doing what I feel is right and human. I am fortunate to have a great support system in my family, the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL which allows me to make an impact in the communities and with people who love our game.”
Jarrett and Brittney Payton, the son and daughter of the late Payton, will recognize Witten’s award on the field before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII.
Witten, who finished his 10th season last year with the Cowboys, set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end last year. Off the field, he has served as the Cowboys’ spokesman for NFL Play 60 and has his own charity, Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, which has started many programs and funded building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee.
The Witten SCORE Foundation’s SCOREkeepers program has placed full-time, trained male mentors in six battered women’s shelters throughout Texas in an attempt to stop a cycle of family violence. The foundation’s latest domestic violence prevention program, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
The Witten’s also involve their children in serving a Thanksgiving meal to the clients at the Salvation Army in Dallas, underwrite the Dallas Cowboys Women’s Association’s Christmas of Giving, and Witten’s free football camp in Tennessee draws some 1,200 campers each year.
Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens, Madieu Williams of the Minnesota Vikings (2010) and Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009). Seventeen Hall of Fame players have won the award.
All 32 team nominees received a $1,000 donation from NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three Man of the Year finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. As the winner, Witten receives an additional $20,000 donation.
The selection panel was comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel future Pro Bowls if the players didn’t pick up the effort. He got his wish — for the most part.
The NFC won 62-35 and the game didn’t have any blatant episodes of guys loafing like the 2012 version. Part of that can be attributed to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who spoke to the entire group of participants (see article below) and called the last two years “unacceptable.”
“Peyton said some things and guys took it personal,” Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said during a sideline interview.
New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz agreed.
“It was a little more high intensity than in years’ past,” he said. “It really did feel like a real game out there. People were hitting. It wasn’t touch football; guys were laying some licks. It had the energy of a real game. My body feels like it just went through a real game.”
Peterson’s teammate, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching five balls for 122 yards during a second-quarter stretch when the NFC pulled away.
There were a few questionable moments. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil pulled up when he had a blindside shot to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees at one point. But there were also hustle moments. Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Chiefs safety Eric Berry from behind and was carried into the end zone during an interception return after a botched field-goal attempt. There were even a few solid hits.
Goodell got what he wanted. Defenders actually tackled. No one was injured. There was a reverse on a kick return and a trick onside kick. Watt even got bloody early in the game.
“It definitely was better, especially compared to last few years,” said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who played in a record-tying 12th Pro Bowl. “That’s all they (NFL decision-makers) really want to see. It felt more like a real game. No one let people run past them.”
The overall feeling was that Sunday was a marked improvement from recent Pro Bowls.
Kareem Copeland | NFL.com Around the League Writer
LOOKING FORWARD: The future of the NFL Pro Bowl could incorporate the NCAA Senior Bowl (Special Feature)
So what would a Pro Bowl-less NFL calendar look like? According to NFL.com’s Albert Breer, one possibility would be replacing the game with a college all-star game.
Breer writes that the AFC and NFC’s all-star team could be recognized at the NFL Honors award show on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, with the college players hitting the field after.
"That game would likely be an existing college event, most likely the Senior Bowl, which would be moved to be part of the NFL calendar, with the thought that it could kick off draft season and highlight prospects on a bigger stage, though the league would certainly be careful about NCAA rules entanglements," Breer writes.
The concept would be to mix today’s stars with future stars. Breer’s well-researched piece has comments from NFL executive vice president of business ventures Eric Grubman, who sounds like he doesn’t see a traditional Pro Bowl in the future.
NEW ORLEANS — Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in the league’s bounty investigation of the club.
Tagliabue, however, found that the players’ conduct was detrimental to the league. He says they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays — including hard tackles — that could justify fines.
But the former commissioner said Tuesday that “this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma initially had been suspended the whole season, while Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received shorter suspensions.
The Saints face the Cowboys on Dec. 23.
RELATED: Tagliabue vacates bounty players’ suspensions
In a sharp rebuke to his successor’s handling of the NFL’s bounty investigation, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in a case that has preoccupied the league for almost a year.
Tagliabue, who was appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeals, still found that three of the players engaged in conduct detrimental to the league. He said they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays – including hard tackles – that could merit fines. But he stressed that the team’s coaches were very much involved.
BURDEN LIFTED OFF SHOULDERPADS: With incident resolved, Dez Bryant to stay focused on being great football player
IRVING – Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant expressed relief and satisfaction that the ugly incident involving his mother has finally been resolved and he can move forward.
“I just feel better man, that it’s done and it’s over with,” Bryant said in the locker room a day after his attorney Royce West signed off on a conditional dismissal agreement with the Dallas County District Attorney.
If Bryant completes one-year of anger management classes and stays out of trouble for a year, the misdemeanor family violence charge will be dismissed.
“I am extremely excited we came to an agreement, and I’m just going to do what I need with my teammates, to be a great teammate, a great person and a great player as well, Bryant said. “I’m excited. I’m just ready to stay focused on football and you known, um, play some great football.”
The case puts Bryant in the cross hairs of the NFL’s personal conduct policy and commissioner Roger Goodell. He could be line for further discipline not just by the Dallas County district attorney but the NFL if doesn’t complete his year incident free.
Bryant said he’s not worried about that because he has no plans on getting in trouble.
He was already undergoing anger management classes and has a security detail with him whenever he goes out, as stipulated by his attorney Royce West and agent Eugene Parker.
What he’s most excited about is the burden it lifts off his shoulders, allowing him to focus mainly on football and being the best player he can be.
Bryant has caught 45 passes for 590 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
After having the first injury free off season for the first time in his career, Bryant had hoped to have a breakout season but that was tainted in July when he was arrested for assaulting his mother Angela Bryant, a week before the starting of training camp.
Bryant went silent and didn’t talk to the media until after the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants. And then it was only about football _ until Thursday when he spoke about the case for the first time.
“It bothered me a little bit," Bryant said. "It’s over now. I feel comfortable and I’m ready to stay focused on this football and keep my mind on that and nothing else. I feel I’m back to being Dez. I’m playing free.”
Dallas — In effort to get the ugly incident in July behind him, Dallas Cowboys receive Dez Bryant entered a conditional dismissal agreement with the Dallas County District Attorney’s office in an effort to resolve the misdemeanor family charge involving his mother, Angela Bryant.
According to his attorney Royce West, Bryant will undergo a year of anger management counseling and must stay out of trouble for a year. If he does all that, the original charges will be dropped, per the agreement with the district attorney.
Key to agreement, according to West, is that Bryant continues to maintain his innocence and never had to enter a plea.
“It did not require a plea to be entered and we still say he is innocent of any charger,” West said. “But to get the issue behind him, we entered into this agreement with the district attorney. The bottom line is if Dez keeps his nose clean and he has never been in trouble before and if does counseling that he has already started, it will be dismissed in a year.”
West said the Bryant understands the seriousness of the incident and he and his family are happy to get the issue behind them.
West also said “the family was closer than they have ever been”, as “they have learned from the experience and were ready to move forward.”
“Both Dez and his mother are satisfied with today’s decision,” West said. “Ms. Bryant did not want charges filed against her son. After having an opportunity to talk to people who witnessed the incident she filed an Affidavit of Non-prosecution with the District Attorney’s Office. The family always felt they could resolve this matter."
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aeillo, Bryant’s case will be reviewed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league’s personal conduct policy and could face further discipline from the NFL.
West said he has focused mainly on the district attorney and has yet to address how the league would handle it. But he doesn’t expect any additional discipline.
“I would be astonished,” West said. “He hasn’t pled to any thing. He hasn’t entered any kind of play. All he has to do is counseling and stay out of trouble.”
Bryant has never been in trouble with the league before and this was his first arrest, although he has had his share of off the field issues during his first three years in league, including several lawsuits for failure to pay debt and being briefly banned from Dallas’ North Park Center Mall for supposedly sagging pants and a dispute with mall security.
Per the advice of West, his agent Eugene Parker and advisor David Wells, Bryant voluntarily began self-help program in August in which he undergoes weekly anger management classes, abstains from drinking alcohol and has a security detail with him around the clock, even on road trips.
RELATED: Bryant agrees to anger management after family dispute
Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has agreed to a year of anger management counseling as part of a deal that could lead to the dismissal of a family violence charge over a dispute with his mother.
Attorney Royce West said Wednesday that Bryant was already attending anger management sessions, and he said the Dallas County district attorney’s office would dismiss the misdemeanor charge if Bryant stays out of trouble for a year.
Bryant was arrested in July in suburban Dallas after he allegedly hit his mother, Angela Bryant, in the face with a ball cap. A police affidavit says he also grabbed his mother by her T-shirt. Bryant’s mother filed an affidavit asking prosecutors not to file charges.
West said the deal with prosecutors was not a plea agreement, and that the family always thought it could settle the matter.
"The family now has put all this behind them, they just want to move forward," West told NBC 5.
West, who is also a Texas state senator, said in a statement that Bryant and his mother "understand the serious nature of family violence accusations."
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said the counseling is aimed at making sure Bryant is never again in the court system.
"This is an opportunity for Dez Bryant," said Watkins. "He’s only 23 years old and I can understand him being 23 with all the pressure that you have to perform on the field, the fact that you have so many dollars in your pocket and a lot of folks are pulling at you, this is an opportunity for him to grow up to mature and take advantage of everything that we’re offering him not only the district attorney’s office but the Dallas Cowboys to really be the citizen that I think he can be."
Dallas Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said coach Jason Garrett would likely address the Bryant situation Thursday. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the agreement didn’t change the league’s plan to review the case once it is resolved.
According to reports, the Cowboys agreed to provide Bryant a security team while restricting his off-field activities. The Cowboys haven’t commented specifically on those limitations.
Bryant was projected as a top 10 draft pick but fell to the Cowboys at No. 24 in 2010 in part because of a troubled past. He missed almost all of his final season at Oklahoma State after the NCAA suspended him for lying about having dinner with Deion Sanders.
There were pre-draft rumors that Bryant skipped meetings and classes at Oklahoma State, and his pro day was marred by banter that he had forgotten the cleats he planned to wear for the workout.
The third-year receiver also ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills on game tickets and jewelry, and he was sued by people who said they were creditors.
Last year, Bryant was kicked out of an upscale Dallas mall for wearing sagging pants. In January, he was reportedly involved in a fight with rapper Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub.
Courtesy: Schuyler Dixon | NBC KXAS Dallas
NBC 5’s Randy McIlwain contributed to this story. Click here to watch the short video
IRVING, Texas (AP) — NFL referees are ready to go unnoticed again, just as they prefer.
The refs approved a new eight-year contract with the league by a 112-5 vote Saturday, officially ending a lockout that led to three weeks of increasingly chaotic games run by replacement officials.
After a few hours of final preparations with league officials, the next stop for the referees will be the airport. Most will be heading straight to their Sunday game sites.
"It was pretty much ‘Come on in and vote,’" said Scott Green, president of the referees’ association. "We’re going to talk football now. We’re going to stop talking about CBAs and lockouts and now we’re going to talk about rules and video and getting ourselves ready to work football games."
They may get ovations similar to the one bestowed on the crew that worked Thursday’s Cleveland-Baltimore game with the tentative deal in place. Before long, they expect to go back to being mostly anonymous and sometimes hated. They’re OK with both.
"The last Super Bowl that I worked, when we got in the locker room, I said, ‘You know, the best thing about this game, nobody will remember who refereed this game,’" Green said. "That’s how we like to work."
The referees met for about an hour and a half Friday night to go over the contract, then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract.
"We are obviously pleased to hear it," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday.
Because they were aware of the financial parameters, most of the discussion by the referees involved non-economic issues such as year-round work and developmental squads, said Tim Millis, the association’s executive director.
The deal came quickly this week after an increasing chorus of complaints became impossible to ignore when a disputed touchdown call on the final play gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Packers on national television Monday night. Many thought the ruling of a Seattle touchdown instead of a Green Bay interception was botched, and the labor dispute drew public comments.
By late Wednesday, the sides had a contract calling for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years’ service.
The defined benefit plan will then be frozen. Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution.
Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials to work year-round. The NFL also can retain additional officials for training and development and assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.
The officials that worked Thursday’s Ravens-Browns game were cheered from the moment they walked onto the field. The difference between the regular crew and replacements was clear. The officials kept the game in control, curtailing the chippy play and choppy pace that had marred the first three weeks of the regular season.
"I think the thing we’re most proud of is the lesson that we all learned," Green said. "If you’re going to be in a professional league, you’ve got top-notch coaches, you need professional officials as well."
Courtesy: Associated Press
Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate has been fined $21,000 by the NFL for a "blindside block" on Sean Lee.
The amount is the designated minimum for a blindside block, which is what the league is calling it.
The NFL won’t announce the amount until later in the week, but a first offense in this category carries a $21,000 fine under the collective bargaining agreement.
Tate was not flagged for a penalty on the play even though it was a hit on a defenseless player. In fact, the Cowboys were assessed a 15-yard penalty at the end of Russell Wilson’s scramble when Bruce Carter was called for pushing the quarterback out of bounds.
After the hit, Tate stood on the field and flexed his muscles.
The Seahawks were up 20-7 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Russell Wilson got flushed from the pocket. As Lee ran toward Wilson, Tate blindsided him with a vicious block that repeatedly was shown on the replay board in the stadium. The Cowboys were sure the flag on the field was against Tate, though it instead was against Bruce Carter for a push out of bounds on Wilson. Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former director of officiating who now works for Fox, agreed on Twitter at the time that Tate should have been penalized.
"It’s up to the NFL," Lee said today. "I don’t really care. The part I don’t like is the celebrating after the hit. … To me, a crack-back block isn’t tough. Anyone can do that. Toughness is about being able to take a hit and getting back up and doing it again."
RELATED: Golden Tate – ‘I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed’
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate said Monday that he was praying he didn’t get fined by the NFL for the blindside hit he delivered Sunday on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
Tate posted the following statement on his official Twitter page Sunday evening:
“I hope Sean Lee is ok. I never have intentions on injuring another player. It’s football which means Its physical, dirty hit would be if I went for his head or neck area.”
Well, the NFL saw things differently, fining Tate $21,000 on Wednesday.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong, but only time will tell,” Tate said Monday on Sports Radio KJR in Seattle. “We’ll see what the NFL office says and we’ll go from there.”
Tate also said during the Monday interview that he aimed lower to avoid a helmet-to-helmet collision because he “had no interest in hurting” Lee.
But Tate wasn’t too remorseful when he heard that Lee said the Seattle receiver wouldn’t be celebrating the way he did if the two players met up one-on-one.
“He has his own opinion of what he thinks,” Tate said Monday. “I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed. But I’m a lover not a fighter so if it came to one-on-one we’ll deal with that whenever that time comes.
“Like I said, I never have any intentions on hurting another player. The way I see it, this is a big fraternity. I was just playing hard and got caught up in the moment. At that point I thought the game could go either way. It was a momentum changer. It sprung us, and that was my only intentions, was putting this offense in better position to score and win the game. And that was an opportunity that I feel like, at the end of the day, any defensive player would be licking their chops to get a hit on a quarterback. So I felt like maybe this is a legal block I was going to get on a defensive player versus them always trying to knock us out.
“So, I wasn’t trying to be vicious at all. But it is what it is.”
Tyron Smith had four penalties in his first ever game at left tackle. Still, he earned an "attaboy" from the Dallas Cowboys, one of the weekly awards the team gives after victories.
Smith won it for his hustle in chasing down Giants linebacker Michael Boley after a second-quarter Tony Romo interception. Smith was docked $15,750 by the league for his horse-collar tackle on Boley, which saved a touchdown.
He will not, he smiled, pass the helmet around the locker room for his teammates to help pay his fine.
"It was a way to help my team out," Smith said. "If you care about the money that much, you’re playing for the money. I’m playing because I want to."
Smith, who gave up no sacks, was unforgiving about the tackle, calling it a last-ditch effort. He is more concerned about the league-leading three false starts. Doug Free and Jason Witten also had false starts, Dez Bryant had an illegal motion and the Cowboys had two delay of games.
Smith said it had more to do with the unfamiliarity of new center Ryan Cook, who arrived at Valley Ranch on Aug. 31 after a trade with the Dolphins, than being twitchy about facing Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
"It’s more just being on the same page as the center on the snap count," Smith said. "That’s why I was off-sides a few times. We’re more on the same page this week. It’ll help this week coming up."
Phil Costa reinjured his back after only three plays last week, forcing Cook into the lineup. Cook has practiced with the first-teamers this week and is expected to get the start with Costa’s back still bothering him.
“Everybody’s on more of the same page this week with the new center we have moving in,” Smith said. “He’s working hard and everybody’s working hard as a unit to get everything cleaned up.”
Smith will face his college coach, Pete Carroll, this week. Carroll is not surprised to see Smith at left tackle, though he played only the right side for Carroll. Smith, the No. 9 overall pick last year, also spent his rookie season at right tackle before he and Free switched sides this off-season.
"We always thought of him as that, that he could do that," Carroll said Wednesday. "He’s a fantastic athlete. He’s extraordinary in what he’s capable of doing. There’s nothing he can’t do. We’re not surprised at all. I see why they did it. They gave him a chance to be comfortable for the first year and then make the move and it looks like it’s working out great for them."
Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith expected to be fined for a horse collar tackle against linebacker Michael Boley following an interception against the Giants.
The NFL didn’t disappoint, fining him $15,750 for the play.
That works out to $3937.50 per point …
It was money well spent considering that Smith’s tackle prevented Boley from scoring a touchdown as he knocked him out at the 2-yard line. The penalty moved the ball to the 1. The Cowboys defense rose up and forced a field goal.
It proved to be huge momentum-turning play in a game the Cowboys won 24-17.
None of it would have happened without Smith’s hustle and effort to chase down Boley _ penalty or not. Fine or not.
“It was a really big play in the game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in the days after the game. “As coaches we always try to emphasize the ball, and the importance of the ball, and taking care of the ball, and quarterbacks making good decisions, holding it the right way in the pocket, anybody who’s carrying the football, make sure you carry it the right way, and we do drills every day. One of the things we talk about is when there is a turnover, going to get the ball back, going to make the tackle if there is an interception or the other team is running with the football.
“You can preach that till you’re blue in the face, but until that situation happens in the game, it’s hard to know the guys are going to respond the right way. But if you watch that play, like we have, you see a lot of guys running the football, trying to make the play, and sure enough, Tyron’s the guy who makes the play. And you said it. It’s a difference-making play in the ballgame, to force an offense to say, ok, you don’t have a touchdown, you’ve got to score from the 2-yard line, and the challenge that that presents to a defense. You always want to be in a situation where you’re trying to have a goal-line stand. And our guys stepped up. I thought our run defense was outstanding. We knocked them back on the first play, knocked them back on the next play, forced them into a passing situation, and defended well on third down to hold them to a field goal. None of that happens if Tyron doesn’t make that play. So his hustle, his determination, his will, did a great job of carrying over the practice emphasis to the game.”
The radio station 105.3 THE FAN is reporting that Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is close to a plea deal after his arrest on a family violence charge amid accusations he assaulted his mother.
PHOTO: Dez Bryant and his mother, Angela, appeared with attorney Royce West in July.
The Dallas Morning News has previously reported that his mother, Angela Bryant, signed an affidavit saying she did not want her son to be prosecuted.
According to THE FAN:
Lawyers representing Dez Bryant met this week with the Dallas County District Attorney’s office and, according to a source familiar with the case, are extremely close to a plea bargain in which the Dallas Cowboys’ receiver will plead guilty to a reduced charge of a Class C misdemeanor for Family Violence.
Bryant was arrested by DeSoto police July 16 after a dispute with his mother, Angela, and originally charged with a Class A misdemeanor. That could have come with a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The proposed deal, mandates Bryant’s guilty plea on a diminished charge in exchange for reduced punishments of no jail time, no probation, a fine, and anger management classes.
Even without a guilty plea, Bryant would have been subjected to the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The district attorney’s office could not be reached comment.
Bryant’s attorney, state Sen. Royce West, could not be reached for comment. His office said he is in Houston attending a meeting.
A collective bargaining agreement appeals panel overturned the NFL’s suspensions of four players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ "bounty" program, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said Friday.
While the suspensions are vacated immediately, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can go back and suspend the four players if he proves there was an intent to injure. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said all players are eligible to play, starting this weekend, until Goodell does so.
"Consistent with the panel’s decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league’s pay-for-performance/bounty rule," Aiello said in a statement. "Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season, free agent Anthony Hargrove for eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita three games.
Fujita and Hargrove played for the Saints during the program’s duration, from 2009 to 2011, under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The suspensions of Williams, coach Sean Payton (season-long), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) weren’t involved in this appeals process.
Vilma took to Twitter to express his satisfaction about the ruling, writing: "Victory is mine!!!!."
Hargrove’s agent, Phil Williams, wouldn’t comment on his client’s status. Williams also wouldn’t say whether or not teams had begun calling him on the assumption that Hargrove is eligible to be on the field for the opening week of the 2012 NFL season.
"It’s all too new," Williams told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.
When asked if his client is physically able to play after being released by the Green Bay Packers in August, Williams said: "Of course. He’s ready to play if he falls out of bed after a month."
According to a source close to Smith, the defensive end plans to play Sunday in the Saints’ regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins and has been led to believe by the team that he will play.
Saints safety Roman Harper said he’d welcome the return of his defensive teammates, Vilma and Smith.
"Well, if coach (Aaron) Kromer would let him come out, I’d definitely like to play with these guys," Harper told reporters.
"I’m excited," Saints quarterback Drew Brees told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala. "I’ve been focused on the game, but I hoped that that would be the case. No, I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t call me surprised. Obviously, they saw the information that we’ve seen for a long time."
Albert Breer | NFL
Could the NFL cut the preseason schedule in half? Commissioner Roger Goodell made it sound like a possibility yesterday (Thursday).
Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit, Goodell said the preseason could be altered to include just two games for each team. The NFL would then go with a 16- or 18-game regular season.
"The four preseason games are an issue for us," Goodell said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "One, you have a question whether we really need it to put on the best quality product. Two, you have an issue of how our fans are reacting to it, and they’re not reacting positively. It’s not the kind of standard that the NFL is used to producing."
Preseason games have never come close to matching the entertainment value of the regular season, but scrutiny has increased this summer. The fourth game — with its absence of stars and any sense of competition — is particularly maligned, especially since season-ticket holders are forced to pay full price for a game the majority have no interest in attending.
Goodell said the NFL had the right to change the schedule "unilaterally" under the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement, but decided to make it a collaborative decision.
"We didn’t do that because we want to be thoughtful, smart and make sure our players are part of the decision," he said.
You won’t find many people who say they enjoy the preseason from an entertainment standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine the NFLPA getting behind a move that will provide fringe players less opportunity to prove themselves.
As for an 18-game regular season? Don’t hold your breath
The NFL has pledged $30 million for medical research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday announced the donation to the foundation, which helps raise private funding for the NIH, the nation’s leading medical research agency.
The same day the grant was announced, researchers published a study indicating that former NFL players are unusually prone to dying from degenerative brain disease.
The work, presented online in the journal Neurology, drew on a long-running study of more than 3,400 NFL players with at least five playing seasons in the league between 1959-88. Some 334 had died by the end of 2007, the cutoff for the study.
Researchers found that deaths from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases, when combined, reached about three times the rate one would predict from the general population. The study did not look for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but researchers said some of the deaths they counted could have been from misdiagnosed CTE.
RELATED: NFL commits $30 million donation to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support medical research
The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) announces that the National Football League (NFL) has agreed to donate $30 million in support of research on serious medical conditions prominent in athletes and relevant to the general population.
This is the largest philanthropic gift the NFL has given in the league’s 92-year history.
With this contribution, the NFL becomes the founding donor to a new Sports and Health Research Program, which will be conducted in collaboration with institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Specific plans for the research to be undertaken remain to be developed, but potential areas under discussion include: chronic traumatic encephalopathy; concussion; understanding the potential relationship between traumatic brain injury and late life neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease; chronic degenerative joint disease; the transition from acute to chronic pain; sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes; and heat and hydration-related illness and injury. The FNIH hopes to welcome other donors, including additional sports organizations, to the collaboration.
"We are grateful for the NFL’s generosity," says Dr. Stephanie James, FNIH acting executive director and CEO. "The research to be funded by this donation will accelerate scientific discovery that will benefit athletes and the general public alike."
"We are looking forward to working with the NFL and other organizations to conduct research on a host of medical conditions affecting athletes," Dr. Story Landis, director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said. "Findings from this research will provide us with better ways to detect, diagnose and treat these conditions, and in some cases, even prevent their occurrence."
"We hope this grant will help accelerate the medical community’s pursuit of pioneering research to enhance the health of athletes past, present and future," said Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner. " This research will extend beyond the NFL playing field and benefit athletes at all levels and others, including members of our military."
About the Foundation for the NIH
Established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the NIH — improving health through scientific discovery in the search for cure — the Foundation for the NIH is a leader in identifying and addressing complex scientific and health issues. The Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization that raises private-sector funds for a broad portfolio of unique programs that complement and enhance the NIH priorities and activities. For additional information about the Foundation for the NIH, visit www.fnih.org.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — The NFL and U.S. Army have teamed up on a long-term program to care for and prevent concussions and head trauma, as well as other health issues.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and General Raymond T. Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, announced the initiative at the U.S. Military Academy on Thursday.
Goodell and Odierno cited the common traits between soldiers and football players, particularly when dealing with stressful situations that can lead to injury.
"We can bring greater awareness not just to our two organizations, but to the general public," Goodell said of the program. "We will do all we can to get our players and the soldiers to under what each other goes through. We’ll work to change our cultures by working closely together."
Changing the culture is the biggest test, Goodell and Odierno said during a panel discussion on safety before nearly 200 cadets. Odierno even admitted he would have struggled to take himself out of combat with a non-visible injury such as a concussion. But he recognizes the need for leaders who will overrule the injured person.
"That is our most difficult challenge," Odierno said. "We all base ourselves on the warrior ethos and the soldiers’ creed as soldiers. If you have a problem and you identify it, to me that is courageous, too. But self-selection is really difficult. There has to be a bond to take care of each other."
Goodell echoed that approach.
"We understand the risk involved when you play any sport and we want people to share the responsibility," Goodell said. "It’s not just the player injured who has to raise his hand. It’s the coaches, his teammates."
The league is being particularly proactive in the head trauma diagnosis and treatment area. Recently, dozens of lawsuits against it were consolidated into one massive complaint involving more than 2,400 people, most of them former players. By joining with the military, it hopes to "integrate the uncompromising devotion to win with a need to address traumatic brain injuries with the necessary care, consideration and commitment to prevention that these injuries require," Goodell and Odierno said in a letter sent to soldiers and current and former NFL players.
Also on hand were former players Troy Vincent, now the NFL’s vice president of player engagement, and Bart Oates. Both said they often were concussed while playing — Vincent seven times — and Oates said he returned to action with a concussion.
"Would I try to stay in the game again? Absolutely," he said, noting that was — and often still is — the mentality of players. "You can’t be expected to self-police yourself as a player. You won that position, it’s your job, you are there to help the team win and that is the most important thing. So individually, if you are trying to police it, it can’t be fixed."
To change that mindset, Oates insisted educating players at a young age to what he wasn’t aware of about concussions when he was growing up is essential.
Vincent believes the protocols and education on awareness of head injuries within the NFL will work, but agreed with Oates that athletes won’t self-regulate.
"There’s no such thing as making the right decision in the heat of battle. You stay in the game to win," Vincent said.
But Goodell explained that making the correct decision in the end will prolong players’ careers. And that correct decision — whether it involves taking yourself out of the game or someone else forcing you to leave when you show signs of head trauma — will become easier to make as everyone becomes more aware of the symptoms.
The panel discussion was the third between the NFL and the military, including one at the Pentagon. The new program guarantees more interaction.
"A lot of attributes are quite alike between soldiers and NFL players," Odierno said. "We’ve come together, two groups of people who are dedicated and courageous, to see how we can help both players and soldiers to deal with this important issue. With nearly 1.1 million soldiers, we have a wide audience we have to deal with. I think this (program) will help bring more awareness to these issues."
Courtesy: BARRY WILNER | AP
When Dez Bryant’s lawyer, Royce West, publicly declared in July that his client didn’t commit family violence against his mother a little more than a week before the Dallas Cowboys receiver was to depart for training camp, there was never a claim of innocence — from the standpoint of Bryant’s character.
Nothing has ever been innocent about Bryant, from his displaced childhood in Lufkin to lies he told to the NCAA that got him banned from football at Oklahoma State to the string of controversies he has been embroiled in since joining the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas County district attorney’s office has yet to decide whether to pursue misdemeanor family violence charges against Bryant for the July 14 incident against his mother, Angela. She has signed a waiver, declining to pursue charges.
But the Cowboys and Bryant know that this escalating pattern of behavior, which could wreck his life — let alone his football career — needs to stop.
His adviser, David Wells, and the Cowboys are setting up strict guidelines to help Bryant manage and remake his life. They include:
■ No consumption of alcohol
■ No attending strip clubs
■ Attending weekly counseling sessions
■ A full-time security team to take Bryant to and from practice and escort him when he is out after midnight
This is not just about the Cowboys putting restrictions on Bryant. Those closest to him, including West, Wells and his agent, Eugene Parker, agree that the stipulations are necessary.
"We have some things in place and we are still in the process of working out the rest," Wells said. "We are all working together to accomplish some things to help him succeed."
Wells will set up the security team as he did when the Cowboys wanted one for Adam "Pacman" Jones when he was with the team in 2008.
The similarities end there, as Adam Jones already was considered a poster child for bad-boy behavior in the NFL. He had already served a year-long suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
That was a reclamation project.
This is an effort to save Bryant’s life and career before it gets to that point.
What it’s also not about is an attempt to curry favor with the district attorney’s office or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who still could discipline Bryant. (Editors comment: It will curry favor with the DA’s office and Roger Goodell. The agreement should pave the way for final action, if any, to be announced by the DA and NFL).
"We are going to help him as a man. If you treat the man first, the rest will come later."
It also must be noted that Bryant is a man willing to be helped. He has agreed to the guidelines, which are voluntary rather than mandatory.
Nothing in the NFL Players Association guidelines allows a team to forcibly restrict a player’s comings and goings.
"He is part of the process. He knows it’s in his best interest. It shows that he is willing to be held accountable."
Bryant admits that he has made mistakes. He understands that he needs to make better decisions, better choices and know how to keep his emotions in check.
He gets it.
Now he just wants some patience and privacy while he goes through the process of remaking his life and saving his career.
"Dez is making better decisions and he is learning from it," Wells said. "With this he is just taking better precautions about his moves and whereabouts and the Cowboys support what he is trying to do. All he is doing is asking for support from the Cowboys, his loved ones and the fans."
If all goes according to plan, what was hoped to be a breakout season for Bryant on the field in 2012 also might coincide with him making a breakthrough in managing his life.
Training camp has officially begun for the Cowboys. Well, sort of.
They’re calling it camp, but it doesn’t feel like camp at all. For starters … there aren’t many here. Nearly all of the starters aren’t eligible to attend, considering this is mainly a three-day camp for rookies and selected vets.
Secondly, it’s here at Valley Ranch as the Cowboys won’t depart for sunny (and cooler) Oxnard, Calif. until Saturday.
But every camp seems to have a level of drama attached to it. And the Cowboys definitely have that, with wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Nothing changed on Wednesday, except for Jason Garrett speaking on the subject for the first time. As expected, the head coach stood by his receiver, but said there is more than just support for Bryant, himself.
“First and foremost, we support Dez Bryant’s family,” Garrett said to a group of reporters following Wednesday’s practice. “We support Dez. We support his mom. We want to help them in any way that we can. We have the resources to do that.”
Garrett said he has spoken to Bryant “a number of times” since he was arrested two Mondays ago for a domestic-violence incident with his mother, Angela, in DeSoto, Texas. On Tuesday, the attorney of both Dez and Angela issued a public statement that charges won’t be filed against Dez, at least by his mother.
The statement also said there was no family domestic violence and that they hoped to move on from the incident, one of a handful associated with Bryant since he was drafted back in 2010. This was his first arrest, but there have been other incidents that have caused the Cowboys to be concerned.
And the NFL might be involved. Commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to issue his own punishment toward Bryant, regardless if charges have been dropped.
Garrett was vague when asked if Bryant is still subject to a fine and/or suspension by the NFL or even the Cowboys. Garrett did say he expects Bryant to be on the team charter Saturday afternoon heading to Oxnard.
"Anybody who knows Dez Bryant’s story and knows our team understands that he comes from a challenging background," Garrett said. "He’s had a difficult road to get to where he is in his life. There’s no excuse for anything that’s happened in his life. You can’t go back and say, ‘Hey I came from this background.’ That’s not what we’re saying.
“We understand what that is and we understand as an organization how we can try to help him. He’s made a lot of progress since he’s been here with the Cowboys both as a person and as a player and he has a long way to go just like we all do."
And Garrett isn’t alone in his support for Dez. Quarterback Tony Romo spoke at an appearance on Tuesday and backed Bryant, whom he talked to by phone soon after the incident last week.
“I’m here for my teammate,” Romo said. “Dez knows that I care about him. Dez knows that I care about his family. Dez knows that I’m here for him when he needs me. I know he’s the same way.
“I think Dez and everybody does things they wish they could have back in life and do things different sometimes. But that was a situation and he will learn from it and he’ll do steps in the future to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I know he feels bad and he’s a kid who’s growing and learning to become a man. He really is a good kid.”
Courtesy: Nick Eatman
SOURCE VIDEO: Jason Garrett Press Conference
In an effort to put allegations of family violence behind them, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and his mother Angela Bryant made an appearance together at the office of Dallas attorney Royce West.
Neither Bryant nor his mother spoke but were there to show unity and ask that prosecutors not pursue charges stemming from Bryant’s July 16 arrest for misdemeanor family violence.
"I would love to make a statement, but I can’t," Dez Bryant said as he left. "I can’t."
West, who is Bryant’s attorney, was the only one who spoke at the news conference that lasted no more than two minutes.
"Did a family disagreement occur? Yes," West said in reading a prepared statement. "Did Dez Bryant commit family violence against his mother? No. They are here together today to show they do love and support each other, just as much as they did before the incident a week ago. But like all families, the Bryant’s have disagreements.
"Mr. Bryant and his family understand the serious nature of family violence. They believe that when all the facts are reviewed, Mr. Bryant will be cleared of any allegations of family violence."
Bryant’s mother had accused him of assaulting her. She told police that he hit her in the face with a baseball cap, tore her shirt and bra and bruised her arms.
She was heard on the 911 tape saying that Bryant was trying to kill her and she wanted to "put an end to it. I can’t keep letting him do this."
Angela Bryant has asked prosecutors not to pursue the case.
"Angela Bryant does not want charges filed against her son," West said. "Ms. Bryant has had an opportunity to speak with other people who witnessed the incident and has filed an affidavit of non-prosecution with the DeSoto Police Department. She recognizes that under the law, filing of the affidavit may not impact the legal outcome of her complaint."
West went on to say, "She asks that her affidavit be taken into consideration in deciding whether it is in the best interest of her family for this to continue in the legal system or allow them to resolve the issue as a family. Dez and his mother believe this is a family matter that can be worked out through counseling. They ask that there not be a rush to judgment concerning their family. They also ask for your continued prayers and support for their family as they work through this matter."
Family violence is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
The matter is in the hands of the Dallas County district attorney. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will pursue charges against Bryant.
Bryant might still be disciplined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league’s personal conduct policy.
While the Cowboys, who begin training camp Saturday in Oxnard, Calif., have continued to decline comment about the incident, Bryant’s teammates have voiced their support.
Quarterback Tony Romo reached out to Bryant last week after news of the incident broke.
"I think Dez and everybody does things they wish they could have back in life," said Romo during a promotional appearance for Starter at Wal-Mart in Arlington on Tuesday. "He is going to take steps in the future to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
"I know he feels bad. It’s a kid who is growing and learning to become a man. He is really a good kid. Dez knows I care about him. He knows I care about his family. He knows I’m here when he needs me."
Linebacker Sean Lee said he’s willing to let Bryant’s off-the-field legal troubles work themselves out.
"As a teammate, he’s been unbelievable," Lee said Tuesday at a promotional appearance at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Dallas. "The type of work he’s put in in practice in the off-season, he’s been in the locker, in the weight room. Obviously, that’s a different deal off the field that needs to be figured out. We’re going to support Dez no matter what."
Courtesy: Clarence E. Hill Jr.
The mother of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t want to pursue an assault case against her son, according to The Associated Press.
Bryant was arrested July 16 on a charge of misdemeanor family violence following an altercation with Angela Bryant. Dez Bryant allegedly slapped his mother in the face with a ball cap and ripped her clothing while grabbing her.
A Dallas County district attorney’s spokesperson told The AP that the case DeSoto (Texas) police filed against Bryant includes an affidavit of non-prosecution from the complainant. The affidavit means the complainant doesn’t want to proceed.
The DA still can choose to pursue action against Dez Bryant, but Angela Bryant’s affidavit likely would end any plans for prosecution. KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth reported the DA might speak with her about her decision.
Jamille Bradfield, Dallas County district attorney spokesperson told NFL.com and NFL Network that despite Angela Bryant’s request not to proceed with the charge "that document in it of itself does not make the case go away, we will still evaluate it."
If the charge does go away, it wouldn’t necessarily clear Dez Bryant of trouble with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Bryant still might be disciplined under the NFL’s far-reaching personal-conduct policy. This was Bryant’s first arrest since coming into the NFL, but he has been involved in other highly publicized incidents that Goodell could take into consideration.
According to NFL spokesman Michael Signora, Diamond Dez Bryant’s arrest Monday on suspicion of assaulting his mother has drawn the attention of the league commissioner and chief disciplinarian Roger Goodell.
"We are aware of it and it will be reviewed as appropriate," Signora said.
He also pointed out that Bryant can be disciplined without a conviction per the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, which reads, "Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell filed a motion Thursday to dismiss New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma ‘s defamation lawsuit against him in Louisiana District Court.
The legal maneuver by Goodell and the NFL is standard procedure for a defendant in a case like this one. Thursday marked the commissioner’s deadline to file an answer brief to the initial complaint from Vilma, who received a season-long suspension after the NFL’s investigation into the Saints’ "bounty" program.
Goodell’s reply claimed that Vilma’s claims were all "relating to and emanating from Commissioner Goodell’s imposition of discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football," according to the court document. That refers to the power Goodell wields over the appeals process in cases under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, under which "conduct detrimental" falls.
The reply brief thus contended that Vilma’s claims "represent an improper attempt to circumvent the mandatory and binding dispute resolution procedures required by the NFL CBA." Goodell’s reply included 715 pages of exhibits, though 317 of those pages were the CBA itself, and another 237 were excerpted pieces from its constitution and bylaws.
Goodell also filed a request for oral argument in connection with his motion to dismiss, and an Aug. 1 hearing was set for that motion in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana before Judge Helen Berringer.
Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said in an email following Goodell’s filing: "We look forward to the time when the legal maneuverings end and we can finally address the merits of the Commissioner’s public — and erroneous — accusations against Jonathan.
"As Williams Gladstone, the British scholar, said, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ Jonathan deserves justice and the commissioner should answer for what he has done to Jonathan. Simply because the commissioner’s attorneys can file motions, and delay the defamation claims from proceeding at the moment, does not mean it is the proper way to proceed. Jonathan, the NFL, its fans, and all of its players, deserve a transparent and open airing of this serious situation."
Vilma also amended his initial complaint to the district court Thursday, asking for a temporary restraining order hearing. A temporary restraining order would keep Vilma’s suspension from starting, pending a preliminary injunction hearing.
Following Goodell’s filings this morning, Vilma said on his Twitter account: "And we’re off … "
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrat Dick Durbin is calling off a proposed hearing on bounties in professional sports because he is satisfied with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response to the issue, including setting up an anonymous hotline.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois met with Goodell on Wednesday, about three months after Durbin said he wanted Congress to examine whether federal law should make it a crime to have a bounty system such as the one the NFL says the New Orleans Saints ran from 2009-11.
"What I hear from them now is, it’s going to be clear: The actions that have been taken against some are going to be taken against others if they violate these basic rules that are being established," Durbin said. "What more could I accomplish with a law? This is better."
Among the steps that persuaded Durbin to abandon a hearing: Posters will be put in locker rooms about bounties and will include information for a hotline so players can report bounty-related activity, and there will be a new bounty section in the players’ handbook.
RELATED: The NFL Players Association, in a written statement, called for a hearing.
"We thank the senator for his interest on these important issues. Given this keen interest, the players hope and expect that the commissioner and the senator will commit to a hearing on health and safety in the NFL in the near future," the statement said.
"Some people question, `Well, what does Congress have to do with this?"’ Durbin said. "It’s a federal crime to bribe somebody to influence the outcome of a professional sporting event. This bounty program is as close to bribery to influence the outcome of an event as I can think of."
Said Goodell: "We will continue to work with the senator and his office. We will continue to evaluate our policies at every step. . We give the Senator our assurance on that, my personal assurance that I will do that."
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL, one of four players punished Wednesday for participating in the team’s cash-for-hits bounty system.
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of this season; Saints defensive end Will Smith was barred for the opening four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, will miss the first three games. All of the suspensions are without pay.
All four players have three days to appeal NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling.
An NFL investigation determined that the Saints had a bounty system from 2009-11 that offered thousands of dollars to players for big hits that knocked opponents out of games. In March, Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for all of next season, and levied other penalties against the club.
But no players were punished until Wednesday. Originally, the league said that 22 to 27 defensive players were involved in the illegal scheme, which was orchestrated by then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and started in the season New Orleans won its only Super Bowl championship.
Targeted opponents included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
“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,” Goodell said in a statement.
According to the league, Saints defensive captain Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked then-Cardinals QB Warner out of a playoff game at the end of the 2009 season, and the same amount for knocking then-Vikings QB Favre out of that season’s NFC championship game. The Saints were flagged for roughing Favre twice in that game, and the league later said they should have received another penalty for a brutal high-low hit from Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray that hurt Favre’s ankle. He was able to finish the game, but the Saints won in overtime en route to the NFL title.
According to the NFL, 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.”
Hargrove “actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints,” the league said, adding 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 NFL said that “multiple independent sources” said Smith “pledged significant sums to the program pool.”
In March, Goodell made Payton the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason, accused of trying to cover up the system of extra cash payouts. Goodell also indefinitely banned Williams, who was hired in January to run the St. Louis Rams’ defense.
In addition, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. The Saints were fined $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks.
Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith are allowed to participate in offseason activity, including preseason games, before their suspensions take effect. Vilma, though, is suspended immediately and will be reinstated after the coming season’s Super Bowl — which, coincidentally, will be played in New Orleans.
Associated Press | National Football League