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Updated: March 22nd, 2012 4:59pm
Zulgad: Chris Kluwe thinks Jonathan Vilma should be banned from NFL

Zulgad: Chris Kluwe thinks Jonathan Vilma should be banned from NFL

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by Judd Zulgad

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma might both belong to the NFL Players Association, but to say there is any type of common bond between the two these days would be completely inaccurate.

Kluwe, in fact, doesn't only want Vilma out of the Players Association, he would like him out of the NFL all together.

Kluwe, in an interview on the "Judd & Phunn" show Thursday morning on 1500 ESPN, said that he would like to see Vilma and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams banned for the NFL for life for their role in the team's bounty program.

The comments came a day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton without pay for the entire 2012 season for allowing a culture in which payments were offered to defensive players who injured opponents.

Goodell also suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis without pay for the first eight games of the upcoming season, fined the team $500,000 and ruled that they will forfeit second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 draft.

Assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season, and Williams, who is now the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, was given an indefinite suspension that could end his coaching career.

"I was pleased," Kluwe said when asked about Goodell's actions. "My position has always been that I think Vilma and Gregg Williams should be banned for life and then Payton should get a year, their GM should get a year and anyone who knowingly took money after a hit that injured someone should get a year as well."

In a league that encourages its players to stay away from controversy, Kluwe has had no problem going after Goodell and the NFL if he thinks the league has been wrong about something. So it carries some meaning that, in this case, Kluwe is applauding the NFL's actions.

Kluwe's words also carry weight because he stood on the sideline on Jan. 24, 2010 and watched the Vikings' 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints in the NFC title game at the Superdome. Kluwe saw the Saints take what appeared to be some unnecessary shots early in that game, and then saw the high-low hit on quarterback Brett Favre in the third quarter that left the veteran hobbled with a painful ankle injury.

"Me and Ryan were kind of looking at each other on the bench going, 'Are they really going after Brett?'" Kluwe said, recalling his exchange with kicker Ryan Longwell that day. "Like, 'Is this really what they're doing?' But you don't want to believe that something like that is happening because you think better of the other players.

"You don't want to think that they're doing something like that. I think that was part of the thing that the league was looking at (in its investigation) was like, 'OK, we've really got to make sure that this is true because otherwise it's going to make the sport look really bad.'"

That's why it took the NFL so long to finally announce that it had irrefutable evidence that the Saints had run a bounty program for three seasons. A "knockout" could earn a player $1,500 and a "cart-off" was worth $1,000. For the most part, the funding came from the Saints players.

Kluwe's disgust with Vilma runs especially high because he reportedly put up $10,000 of his own cash to anyone who knocked Favre out of the NFC title game. Kluwe said Thursday that he first suspected something was odd when Favre was drilled after handing off early in the game.

"I had never seen that before in my life," he said.

And so, although the guilty defenders might be in the same union as Kluwe, he has no interest in supporting them. Punishment for players has not been announced yet because Goodell is thought to be in talks with the NFLPA about the course of action.

The Vikings, meanwhile, jettisoned defensive tackle Remi Ayodele on Wednesday hours after Goodell announced the punishment against the Saints. Ayodele was with New Orleans during the 2009 season, and he was the guy who went high on Favre as then-teammate Bobby McCray came in low.

The Vikings contend that the move to let Ayodele go was based on his disappointing performance during the team's 3-13 season in 2011 -- plus the fact fellow defensive tackle Fred Evans did not officially sign until Wednesday -- but the timing certaintly was interesting. There is a chance the Vikings knew that Ayodele is going to face a suspension from the NFL and decided it was no longer worth having him around.

As for the suspensions that are to be handed out, Kluwe said he will be upset if the guilty parties don't have to pay a big price.

"I'll be very disappointed," if they only get three games, he said. "I think this is a spot where the (NFLPA) definitely has to take a stand and say, 'Look, you put other guys' livelihoods in danger. You're jeopardizing other guys' chances to play.' Football is violent enough as it is. It's hard enough to stay healthy in the league and so by maliciously trying to hurt people they need to show, we need to show, that there's no place in the game for that kind of behavior."

Kluwe also sees this as an opportunity for the union to take a stand and make it clear to its members that there is a difference between right and wrong.

"That's one of things where I think that's why we need to make a strong point," he said. "The NFLPA can't be just about appealing fines for late hits or protecting players when they do something wrong.

"It has to stand for doing the right thing as well, and that means protecting union members who were the ones that were the victims of getting injured. You can't look at the (NFLPA) as a shield for the guys who are doing the wrong thing. It has to be a shield for the guys who need that protection." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd