Dec 18, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) rests along the sidelines during the game with the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Saints win 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Four former and current New Orleans Saints players suspened by NFL

Bounty gate, pay for performance, or generally accepting money for “big” plays is the newest taboo currently around the NFL.

The New Orleans Saints have paid dearly for this very thing during defensive coordinator Gregg Williams tenure from 2009 to 2011.

Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games.

On top of that the entire organization was fined $500,000 and forfeited two draft picks — a second round pick this year and one next year.

For weeks now players that were perceived to be involved in the bounty program have braced for discipline from the league.

That discipline has come today.

Originally it was reported that as many as 27 current and former Saints players took part in Williams bounty system knowingly, but the “primary” players targeted had always been linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith, and former linebacker Scott Fujita.

Strong safety Roman Harper’s name also surfaced as a candidate for suspension, but it looks like for now he had dodged the wrath of the NFL.

Another former Saints player has been named as defensive tackle Tony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, has been included in the latest round of suspensions.

Starting with Jonathan Vilma, he has been suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season — much like coach Sean Payton.

Vilma can take place in all off-season activities leading up to the regular season, at which point he will be forced to depart the teams facility without pay.

The Saints knew Vilma would receive the brunt of the punishment, and as such went out into free agency and signed two middle linebackers that can start right away.

Curtis Lofton, formerly of the Eagles, and David Hawthorne, who was with the Seattle Seahawks last year.

New Orleans has effectively prepared themselves for Vilma’s absence, but likewise have not done so when it comes to the loss of Smith.

Smith has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season. He too can spend the preseason with the team, but will be barred from any contact with the Saints once the regular season is underway.

Without Smith in the lineup the Saints current options at right defensive end are slim considering the primary backup is undrafted free agent Junior Galette.

Galette played at Stillman college, and while he has displayed flashes of serious playmaking ability, he may not be ready to become the full time starter.

The Saints did not take a defensive end in the draft, but did select defensive tackle Akiem Hicks — who could play end — with their first pick in the third round.

Free agency doesn’t yield many better options than what the Saints have one the roster already, but the team may want to pick up the phone and give James Hall or Andre Carter a call.

Fujita, now with the Browns, will face a three games suspension without pay, and Hargrove an eight game suspension without pay.

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Tags: Bounty Gate Four Former And Current New Orleans Saints Players Suspened By NFL Joe Vitt Jonathan Vilma Mickey Loomis New Orleans Saints NFL Scott Fujita Sean Payton The Saints Tony Hargrove Will Smith

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