The NFL Commissioner finally made his move in the bounty case looming over the Saints. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse.
“It’s not that bad,” the ‘’Cajun Cannon’’ Bobby Hebert told me. ‘’That’s why you go and get guys like Curtis Lofton, who is like a young Jon Vilma,’’
Goodell suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season and defensive end Will Smith for a total of four games this upcoming season.
‘’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,” Goodell said. “Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”
The Saints protected themselves against damage caused by the looming penalties by bringing in Lofton during the free agency period from the Atlanta Falcons. Lofton lead the Falcons in tackles last season and has been a tackling machine with Atlanta entering his fifth season in the NFL. Smith can participate in off-season conditioning, mini-camps, training camps and the pre-season. His suspension starts week one.
Smith is the Saints’ best defensive lineman, and his loss hurts…but, it gives guys like Cameron Jordan, Greg Romeus and Junior Gallette a chance to show their stuff.
Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita is suspended for three games. Fujita left the Saints for the Browns following the 2009 super bowl championship season. Former defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove is now with the Green Bay Packers, has been suspended for eight games. All in all, it could have been a lot worse for the Saints. Vilma was widely considered a declining player and the Saints restructured his contract in the off-season to reflect his compensation level. The loss of Smith hurts, but isn’t overwhelming. The Saints were without Smith for the first two games of last season after serving a suspension over the “Star Caps” episode.
And, keep in mind: If the players appeal the suspensions, it could be that we could see both Vilma and Smith get some playing time this season.