Larry Fitzgerald said the players suspended in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" scandal aren't "bad men," but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needed to mete out punishment in the pay-to-injure scheme, the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver told NFL Network's Rich Eisen.
"I think it's unfortunate ... that authority figures in the league implemented such a thing," Fitzgerald said on Eisen's podcast, which will air Thursday on NFL Network at 1:30 p.m. ET.
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"I think Roger Goodell, our commissioner, had to do something to let everybody know that was not going to be tolerated, and moving forward, this is not something that is going to be acceptable," Fitzgerald said.
Saints defenders Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith have been suspended by the league for their role in the so-called bounty program. Vilma has been suspended for the 2012 season without pay, and Smith received a four-game ban.
"I've known Jonathan Vilma for a very long time ... Will Smith actually hosted me on my visit to Ohio State in college," Fitzgerald said. "I've known these guys a really long time and they're not bad men by any stretch of the imagination, so I feel bad that they are losing game checks and losing an opportunity to make a living."
Former Saints players Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Scott Fujita (three games) also have been suspended.
The NFL found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams implemented a so-called bounty system that rewarded defenders with cash for injuring opponents.
Fitzgerald also touched on the Cardinals' quarterback competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, saying choosing a starter is "Coach (Ken) Whisenhunt's decision. I just know that whoever is out there playing, I hope I'm out there catching passes from them and making plays for the team."