"It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field."
The discipline breaks down as follows:
• Vilma is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions.
"In assessing player discipline," Goodell said, "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."
"No bounty program can exist without active player participation," Goodell added. "The evidence clearly showed that the players being held accountable today willingly and enthusiastically embraced the bounty program. Players put the vast majority of the money into this program and they share responsibility for playing by the rules and protecting each other within those rules."
On April 16, sources close to the linebacker told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that Vilma was bracing himself for a suspension ranging anywhere from two to eight games.
Williams already has been suspended indefinitely by the league, while Saints coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for the 2012 season and general manager Mickey Loomis will miss the first eight games of the season. Assistant coach Joe Vitt, suspended six games for his role in the scandal, will serve as the team's interim coach in Payton's absence.
According to a Sports Illustrated report from March, Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to any player who could knock out then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre from the 2009 NFC Championship Game. During that game, Favre endured a number of gruesome hits, and he suffered a nasty ankle injury late in the game.