Goodell: Saints players not absolved

New Orleans Saints players who participated in the team’s bounty program could be looking at serious consequences, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested Tuesday.

In an interview with Rich Eisen of the NFL Network, Goodell flatly rejected the notion that Saints defensive players should not be punished because they were simply following the orders of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

"[The] evidence was clear that the players embraced it," Goodell said. "I don’t think they are absolved from responsibility."

Goodell, who said the penalties will be announced soon, has already leveled unprecedented sanctions on the Saints’ coaching staff and organization, including a one-year suspension for head coach Sean Payton.

Goodell met last week with the NFL Players Association to discuss punishments against players.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was the only player named publicly by the NFL when it announced its probe of the bounty payments. The league said Vilma had personally offered $10,000 for a hit that knocked Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in January 2010. reported last week that Vilma was anticipating being suspended between two and eight games.

Saints safety Roman Harper and defensive end Will Smith were also reportedly being looked at by the league. Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita could be penalized for reportedly contributing money into the bounty pools.