Players planning to use the defense that former Saints coordinator Gregg Williams ordered them to injure opponents aren't likely to be absolved of guilt based on comments made by commissioner Roger Goodell in an interview with NFL Network on Tuesday.
Goodell, appearing on the "Rich Eisen Podcast" said that after a lengthy investigation covering parts of two seasons, "evidence was clear that they players embraced it."
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said recently he expected at least a two-game suspension and perhaps as much as an eight-game ban. Vilma is one of many players directly linked to the bounty investigation in which players were rewarded by Williams for knockout hits. Vilma is allegedly offered $10,000 of his own money to any player who knocked out Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship game. Favre was hit repeatedly in the game, including two roughing-the-passer penalties, and suffered an ankle injury.
Goodell said last month that at least 22 players and as many as 27 were involved on some level. The punishment for players was recently discussed with the NFLPA and is expected to be severe given the mutual platform of player safety and particular sensitivity to head injuries.
"I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players -- including leaders among the defensive players -- embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players," Goodell said last month. "While all club personnel are expected to play to win, they must not let the quest for victory so cloud their judgment that they willingly and willfully target their opponents and engage in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players."