Courtesy of MCT
Former Ohio State defensive end Will Smith was one of four NFL players suspended Wednesday for their roles participating in a cash-for-hits bounty system while playing for the New Orleans Saints.
Smith will have to sit out the NFL season’s first four games, but his punishments paled in comparison to some of his former teammates.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season for his role in the system and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove was suspended for eight games. Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita will have to sit out three games.
Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012-13 season in March.
The bounty system allegedly targeted opposing players and rewarded athletes who injured or delivered big hits to the targets.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the decision in a statement.
“In assessing player discipline, 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,” Goodell said in the statement.
DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association, said the association plans on fighting the penalties.
Will Smith released a statement proclaiming his innocence.
“I am disappointed the NFL has punished me with a four-game suspension. I have never in my career, nor as a captain, asked others to intentionally target and hurt specific opposing players … The accusations made against me are completely and 100 percent false, and I plan to appeal the decision along with the help of the NFL Players Association. Through this entire process, the NFL never notified me of what I was being accused of, nor presented me with any evidence or reasoning for this decision. I am interested in discovering who is making these specific and false accusations, and as well as why a decision was made without speaking with me and giving me the opportunity to review the facts. I am going to work with my union to clear my name and returning to the game I love and respect. Thank you to our fans for the continued support.”
Smith played for the Buckeyes from 2000-2003 and was part of the 2002 team that won the national championship. During his career at OSU he recorded 23 sacks and 46.5 tackles for loss.
He was selected with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and was part of the Saints team that won the 2009 Super Bowl.