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Vilma 'shocked and extremely disappointed' by ban

Jonathan Vilma isn't going to take his season-long suspension from the NFL lying down. The longtime leader of the New Orleans Saints' defense released a fiery statement Wednesday to dispute the NFL's findings in its bounty investigation.

Vilma's statement is the only one we can remember to be released in all caps. We'll convert his words to lowercase so it doesn't feel like Vilma is screaming at you.

'Bounty' player punishments
Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season, one of four Saints players punished for their roles in the team's "bounty" program. More ...

News:
• Vilma speaks out on suspension
• ATL: Saints will be OK in 2012
• Players react on Twitter
• Wyche: Fallout from rulings

Video:
• Sharper on Saints suspensions
• Warner surprised at punishments

"I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the NFL's decision to suspend me for the 2012 season," the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker wrote. "Commissioner Roger Goodell has refused to share any of the supposed evidence he claims supports this unprecedented punishment. The reason is clear: I never paid or intended to pay, $10,000, or any amount of money, to any player for knocking Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, or any other player out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff game, 2010 NFC Championship game, or any other game.

"I never set out to intentionally hurt any player and never enticed any teammate to intentionally hurt another player. I also never put any money into a bounty pool or helped to create a bounty pool intended to pay out money for injuring other players. I have always conducted myself in a professional and proud manner. I intend to fight this injustice, to defend my reputation, to stand up for my team and my profession, and to send a clear signal to the Commissioner that the process has failed, to the detriment of my, my teammates, the New Orleans Saints and the game."

Vilma is a passionate and charismatic leader on the field, and that passion comes across here. When addressing Vilma's punishment in the league's release on the matter, Goodell wrote that Vilma assisted then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the bounty program. "Multiple independent sources" also confirmed Vilma had a $10,000 bounty for any player who knocked out Warner or Favre during the 2009 playoffs.

It is telling that Vilma released his statement through his agent, not the team. The Saints, who are well prepared to deal with Vilma's suspension, have been silent on the matter.

The NFL Players Association is expected to appeal the league's ruling on Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker Scott Fujita. The Saints players did not speak to NFL investigators this year after being invited to do so with counsel present. Hargrove did provide a written statement acknowledging the bounty program and his place in it.

While Vilma was shocked, we shouldn't be so surprised with the ruling. Goodell came down hard on the coaching leadership of the team and similarly brought the hammer down on player leadership. That's Vilma.

The NFLPA is caught in the middle, but it has made it clear it will defend the suspended Saints players with vigor. In Vilma, it's clear the union has someone ready to passionately defend his side.

UPDATE: Smith issued a statement of his own Wednesday, announcing he also will appeal his suspension.

"Through this entire process, the NFL never notified me of what I was being accused of, nor presented me with any evidence or reasoning for this decision," Smith said. "I am interested in discovering who is making these specific and false accusations, and as well as why a decision was made without speaking with me and giving me the opportunity to review the facts."

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