NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld his decision to suspend members of the New Orleans Saints coaching staff over the team's bounty program, but left open the possibility for reductions in fines if they "embrace the opportunity" to help develop and implement player safety programs.
The NFL announced last month that they suspended former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year because ofÂ the team's bounty program.
The Saints also will be fined $500,000 and will forfeit their second-round selections in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, the league said. In addition, the league is suspending Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six regular-season games, the NFL said in a statement.
âA combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,â NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement when he announced the initial suspensions. âWhen there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.â
The NFL reported this year that the Saints paid defensive players a bounty for injuring opponents as well as making interceptions and fumble recoveries during the 2009-2011 seasons. The program involved as many as 27 players and at least one assistant coach, the league concluded following an investigation.
The league said the program was administered by then-defensive coordinator WilliamsÂ âÂ who now holds the same position with the St. Louis RamsÂ âÂ with the knowledge of other coaches. Players regularly contributed cash to a pool, which may have topped $50,000 at its peak.
The players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout," when an opposing player was not able to return to the game, and $1,000 for a "cart-off," when an opposing player had to be carried off the field. In some cases, particular players on the opposing team were targeted, the NFL said.
After the program was reported on, Payton and Loomis said they took "full responsibility" for the practice, which they said "happened under our watch."