Like Vilma, they were suspended without pay, costing each hundreds of thousands of dollars. Vilma and Smith denied any wrongdoing.
The league said its investigation showed "a significant number of players participated" in the bounties - by ponying up cash or collecting it - but noted that "the players disciplined participated at a different and more significant level."
Add the losses of Vilma and Smith to the previously announced suspension of head coach Sean Payton for all of 2012, along with shorter penalties for general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on the Saints ahead of a season that will end with New Orleans hosting the Super Bowl.
As attention to concussions has increased in recent seasons, Goodell has emphasized the importance of player safety via rules enforcement and threats of fines or suspensions. The NFL is facing dozens of lawsuits brought by more than 1,000 former players who say the league didn't warn them about - or shield them from - the dangers of head injuries.
If Goodell aims to move on from the bounty case, the NFL Players Association might not let him. The suspended players have three days to appeal, and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said the union would fight the ruling.