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No surprise that Roger Goodell severely punished Saints

JonathanĀ Vilma will be suspended for the entire 2012 season because of his involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.

Seeing this news in print is stunning, and yet it shouldn't be. The football world is surprised at the severity of the suspension -- a collective loss of breath -- but we should have seen this coming.

Our reaction was the same when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely and Sean Payton was suspended for the season. At the time, ATL wrote that Payton's suspension was justified because he was the man in charge. He was responsible for the actions of his team. He had to take the fall.

As the leader of the Saints' defense, Vilma was held responsible for the actions of* his *players. He was the captain of the defense. The NFL's investigation determined he helped establish and fund the program. Vilma offered a specific $10,000 bounty to knock out Brett Favre from the NFC Championship Game, which explains why his punishment was so severe.

It is naive to ignore the players' active and enthusiastic participation in the program. These are grown men. If they truly didn't want to follow Williams' lead, they could have done something about it. This was an organizational problem, and the players are a big part of the organization.

Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended eight games.

"Hargrove 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 league's statement read.

Hargrove "actively obstructed" the league's 2010 investigation by lying. The cover-up likely cost him extra games, compared to linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) and defensive end Will Smith (four games).

Vilma, Fujita and Smith were the leaders of the Saints' defense while the bounty system was in place. That's why we shouldn't be surprised that Roger Goodell brought the hammer down so hard on them.

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