With Jonathan Vilma suspended for the entire 2012 season, the backlash from the Saints’ bounty program continues. In recent years, Drew Brees and other members of the Saints’ potent offense emerged as dependable fantasy plays, but it may be time to begin wondering what impact the absence of Coach Sean Payton and now one of the defensive and emotional leaders in Vilma will mean for the overall success of this team. The wheels seem to be coming off in New Orleans – off-field distractions and a difficult atmosphere in the locker room can wreak havoc on Sunday successes.
The scandal may have a wider impact on the entire NFL too. After the league promised to be more aggressive in player suspensions for illegal hits in 2011, many players have had to adapt their game to avoid supplemental discipline that can have severe costs for them and their teams. Suspensions due to on or off-field behavior can have a significant impact on a player’s approach to the game; intimidating defenses become slightly less so, and skilled offensive players have a little more breathing room. The effects of the Saints’ suspensions are as of yet unknown, but could influence matchup decisions come gametime.
The league is trying to be firm with its stance on inappropriate behavior that poisons the game of football, and this most recent suspension is the most striking to date. What do you think? Is Vilma’s suspension merited? What will be the consequences for the Saints and their opponents?