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. Mistylynn

    I find this hard to believe and that Peter said this probably happens a lot? I really love my football but I am really disappointed.

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

      Sean Peyton always looks like he is up to no good. Now we know for a fact.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. James K.

    HA HA

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. markiejoe

    Seems fair. I personally would have suspended williams for lifetime as opposed to "indefinitely," and Payton for two years instead of just one. But hey, it's better than nothin'.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. steven

    To be fair they should cancel all 2nd round picks for all teams, just incase they were using bounties.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chalie

      So if someone in your company does something illegal and gets suspended without out pay, you'd think it's fair that everyone else gets suspended without pay because they "could have" being doing the same illegal activity? That's essentially what you're arguing here.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pkiddingme

    Good. Now everyone in pro ball can go back to pretending they're not trying to damage each other.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    I just don't get it? I played football my whole life....if you want to see violence check out some of my Pop Warner practice tapes. Football players are fighters. You get beat up, you are bloody, in pain, beyond exhaustion, disoriented. The game will test your will power. We always tried to hurt people...that's the game. You are praised for hard hits! The best players on our team were the players who punished our opponents. Not to quote Winslow Jr., but it IS a war out there.
    Now we get some crybaby sympathizers saying they were trying to intentionally hurt the other team. WELL the other team is not defenseless? Hurt them back!! It's like when the other team cries “they ran the score up on us”? WELL stop them.

    Toughen up ladies; if you don't understand it....don't try to.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty M.

      That's all a lot of "tough guy" talk until it's your butt stuck in a wheelchair the rest of your life. It's a game; not life or death. What happened to the spirit of sportsmanship in this country?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ro

      I think you are missing the point. It is the fact that they are getting paid extra to inflict the injuries. Injuries go with the territory of Football – understood! Personally I think players were a lot tougher years ago. But this does not change the fact that the Coaches were paying their Players to intentionally get a few exrta bucks to end someone's Career and cause permanent damage. It is just a little Death Race 2000 for me.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Aston

    I think the Saints will win the Super Bowl next year!!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pura Vida

    I love Brees' comment saying that he was "not aware of its REAL existence"; what a nice way to try to cover-up.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cigarman

    Actually, the NFL did not go far enough. This coach should have been barred for life, just as Pete Rose was barred for life from Baseball. This clown coach should have to pay monetarily to the players that were injured because of his actions. The New Orleans Saints themselves should be barred from having a team in the NFL for at least Five Years, that would discourage other coaches and owners from doing this. A five hundred thousand fine is not nearly enough of a fine, it should have been ten million dollars, five hundred thousand is LUNCH to a lot of these teams.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. A.D.DiSorda

    Many people watch sports because they want to see blood, pain and even death. Its been that way for centuries and is no different now. This pretentious outrage is naive posturing, but good for lawyers I am sure.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steven

    The problem is the culture, as an athelete even a child your basically bred to win. Period. So you will do whatever it takes to win even if that means crippling another player.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Coach Ditka

    Goodell also ordered that Williams forfeit one "g" in his first name.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Curt

    Another reason why I never took football as a serious sport.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BDowns12

    First of all, this is not finished as far as the suspensions go. Their suspended inidividuals will get their reps to appeal and they will get reduced "sentences". People are acting as if this sort of thing should be tolerated and that in a league were the object many times is to put the other teams best out of the game, that this should not be that big of a deeal. Lets be clear, the issue isn;t that players got paid to sack a player or get an interception, those things are written into some players contracts as contractual incentives. The issue is they were playing players to intentionally try and injure other players. It is one thing for a player to sack someone and ini the course of doing that injure the other player, it is completely different to set out with the goal of injuring the player, not getting the sack. That is why this is such a huge issue. Not to mention the growing concerns about concussions and long term illness that has been talked about so much over the last few years. The NFL had no other choice but to come down hard on these guys.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. paul

    sounds like these fools deserve jail time, not just some silly football team punishment

    March 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
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