NEW ORLEANS (WFAN/AP) — All but four of the 27 current or former Saints that the NFL linked to New Orleans’ cash-for-hits bounty system can now look forward to next season free of worry that they’ll be forced to miss games, or game checks.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on “Bountygate” — again — and was criticized heavily — again — for the punishments delivered.

Like Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Jet Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season. Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of the 16-game season; Saints defensive end Will Smith was barred for the opening four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, will miss the first three games of 2012.

They were all suspended without pay, costing each hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Goodell’s decision wasn’t questioned by all. It passed the Eli Manning test, for starters.

“He’s doing the right thing to make sure this doesn’t happen ever again,” the Giants quarterback said. “He’s been harsh, to try to make a statement saying there is no place for this in the game of football.”

Then there were the dissenters. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said on his Twitter page that the penalties were “ridiculous” and that he wants “to see the evidence and hear an explanation.”

Saints veteran linebacker Scott Shanle tweeted that taking the whole season away from Vilma is “absolutely ludicrous!”

As for those who’ve been suspended, they must determine what measures they’re willing to take to show Goodell that he got it wrong.

“I intend to fight this injustice, to defend my reputation, to stand up for my team and my profession, and to send a clear signal to the commissioner that the process has failed,” said Vilma.

Do you side with Eli or Vilma? Sound off in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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