NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program
Saints head coach Sean Payton's one-year suspension begins April 1 as a result of his team's bounty program.
March 21st, 2012
02:01 PM ET

NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program

[Updated at 2:01 p.m. ET] The NFL is suspending former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year because of the team's bounty program, the league said Wednesday.

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.

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. “When 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.”

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 Williams - who now holds the same position with the St. Louis Rams - 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."

"These are serious violations, and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game," Loomis and Payton said in a statement this year.

Also Wednesday, Goodell sent a memo to all teams instructing them to certify that they have no bounty program. Each principal owner and head coach must make the certification in writing to the commissioner by March 30, the NFL said.

“Bounty programs have no place in our game,” Goodell said. “They are incompatible with our efforts to promote sportsmanship, fair play and player safety.”

Goodell will review Williams’ status after the 2012 season, and will pay "close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings," the NFL said.

Williams' suspension is immediate, while Payton's begins April 1.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a letter to fans following the investigation's conclusion, saying he was never aware of the infamous bounty program in which his team admitted to taking part.

"I do feel a responsibility to my teammates, the Saints organization and to the fans, to address the "bounty" allegations," Brees wrote in a letter posted Friday on his foundation's website. "There is no place in the National Football League, or any sport played at any level, for players to conspire, to be coerced, or to be incentivized to intentionally injure another player. I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."

Many former players say "bounty" incentive programs have existed in professional football for a long time. Players, who question why this scandal is shocking so many fans, say football is a violent sport built around punishing opponents.

LaVar Arrington, a former Washington Redskins linebacker who writes the Hard Hits blog for The Washington Post, wrote after the investigation that the best players in the history of football have always brought a "seek and destroy mentality" to the game.

"So in a culture where it's an unwritten part of the game to get the best opposing player out of it, that's what players have done and still do to this day. The fact that there's such outrage appears to be a bit strange to me," Arrington wrote on his blog.

The NFL said the bounty program was a clear violation of rules intended to protect "player safety and competitive integrity."

soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. ProperVillain

    Good old "win at any cost" American mentality. People wonder why I hate sports so much...

    March 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smoochie

      I wasn't wondering about you.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • smb04d

      @ProperVillian...LOL no not really...I don't think anyone cares...But thanks, that's nice to know now.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Actually, nobody cares.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc L from NY

      I don't wonder why you hate sports so much. In fact, I could care less.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Enzo

      Winning is the goal. Playing nice doesn't work. The US has been playing nice in Afghanistan for over 10 years now and we still can't beat some sandal wearing Taliban. The country is so soft you can't even hit the quarterback. Football has become a joke game. They might as well take off the pads, helmets and just play flag football.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • goobernut

      blah blah blah...

      We really don't care what you hate!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ben

    So Bill Belichick can break the rules of football and get away with a slap on the wrist, but Sean Payton, who has nothing to do with this, gets suspended an entire season for something that players are admitting happens on every other team? Real fair.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • derp

      Spygate was not designed to hurt players.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • propmgr35

      Coach PAyton made it clear he knew about and took responsibility. He didn't have "nothing to do with it"...

      March 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • goobernut

      Ben, I was just thinking that same thing..what the heck!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBG

      Losing a first round draft pick is a slap on the wrist?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      That is soooo crazy. Whose leg is Belicheck humpin??

      March 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      It hurt the integrity of the game Derp. Every since Pop warner kids get incentives for playing hard a good hit you get pizza or ice cream This is absurd truly absurd. The Patriots are CHEATERS REAL CHEATERS and got no punishment. Goddell is TRASH.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eh'vis


    March 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Buckeye for life


    March 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Duane

    Man did they screw up, and honestly I think the punishment fits. But I think we will see players who were placed on permanent injury lists or lost wages due to lack of play because of the NO policy sue the organization for back pay and liability.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Woof

      As a diehard Saints fan there was a need for punishment but as I've witnessed so much in this country where the punishment doesn't fit the crime this is definitely one of those cases. Essentially what the Commissioner has done is made absolutely that the Saints have no shot at the Super Bowl this year whatsoever. Also In Spy Gate all he did was slap what can be considered a cheap fine on the Patriots but to suspend a coach for a whole season, the General for 8 games. a defensive coordinator who is now with another team indefinitely, hurting the team he's with and draft choices. If any one out there thinks that this is a justified punishment then you are the same type person who believes that the death penalty helps control crime!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Woof

      You think the punishment fits!? Okay here after hearing other pros admit to putting money in a player pool for interceptions or tackles inside the 20. C'mon! The only difference is that they weren't caught! I know the, "but they weren't trying to hurt players" line but what if that kickor punt returner was hit hard enough to be put out of a game, then what? The fact is anytime you put any kind of money into any kind of pool it's a bounty!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ml

    A year? Unfair. He has ruined our team. I know the saints are not the only team doing this.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shuffler

      Your team ruined your team. Don't blame the actions of your players on anything else. If any other team was doing this they should get the same punishment. It is just plain poor sportmanship.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charlie

    RIGHT!!! Brees knew nothing.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Falcons

    serves him right.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WhackyWaco

    It is what it is.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Neurons

    Appropriate penalties for Williams and Payton............probably should have fined Saints more. $500K is chump change for them.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Imjustforu93

    The softness of the penalty will only encourage every NFL team and coaching staff to have such a program.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Missy

    What they really need to do is what they should have done when the Patriots were caught stealing plays a few years back–no fines, but no postseason playoff opportunities. This went on during the season the Saints won the Super Bowl. They should be stripped of the Lombardi trophy for it.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoWay

      That's crazy. The pay part is terrible, but the hits were legal. Football is a rough sport and every player that plays the game knows what they are up against.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Woof

      Sorry Missy, this isn't college and no trophy gets stripped. This is the pros and to hurt a person in this league means cost them money!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GDI

    I want stats. How many people collected the bounty? Who was injured and can they now sue?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dubrats

    wow a years paid vacation....they should all be fired....what a joke.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc L from NY

      To a football coach, a year of not coaching with pay is worse than a year of coaching without pay.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lewbratspis

    now that's not a slap on the wrist

    March 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
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