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Jonathan Vilma suspended for 2012 season for role in Saints bounty system

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(AP)

The NFL continued doling out punishment for the New Orleans Saints' bounty program on Wednesday, suspending linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season for his role in the team's pay-for-hits system.

Defensive end Will Smith will sit out four games.

Anthony Hargrove, a former Saints defensive end who signed with the Green Bay Packers in March, was given an eight-game suspension. Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was suspended for three games.

The NFL found that Vilma offered $10,000 of his own money to any team member who knocked Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of 2009 playoff games.

The linebacker agreed to a rare pay cut last month. He was scheduled to make $3.3 million salary and bonuses in 2012. His suspension is without pay, but it's immediately unclear whether he'll receive the $1 million roster bonus.

[Dan Wetzel: Saints get off relatively lightly with player bounty suspensions]

Fujita was also found to have pledged his own money in the bounty system.

Analysts had expected the players to receive lengthy suspensions. A one-year ban for Vilma was a mild surprise, but fits with Roger Goodell's strict handling of the bounty scandal.

[Related: Jonathan Vilma reportedly learns of ban on 'SportsCenter']

Saints head coach Sean Payton began serving his season-long suspension last month. The team's interim coach, Joe Vitt, is suspended for eight games but will be allowed to coach at offseason minicamps and in the preseason. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the apparent ringleader of the program, was given an indefinite suspension.

"In assessing player discipline," Goodell said in a statement, "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."

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