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. Gerry

    So, I guess all Saints fans need to boycott all home games! The NFL will loose a ton of money for this silly decision!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BS Brees

    Drew Brees said "I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."

    Relating to its "real" existence??? What kind of BS legal talk is that? So I guess he had knowledge to its "alleged" existence at the time. Translation: Drew Brees KNEW what was going on! What a cop-out.

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

    This is BS.. Im sure there are a lot of other teams practicing the same program but just haven't gotten caught yet. This BLOWS!!

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

    I am waiting for COACH to pay back by resigning and go away

    March 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DeeIsMe

    This is crazy! Payton does not deserve this! Heck, the Saints organization doesn't deserve this! All teams have bounties!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glen

      How Doyou KNIOW this? Is it all over the news every year about a team getting caught doing this?! Just shut up and take your medicine and enjoy the cellar where these low lifes belong

      March 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ageis3

    I'm good with the suspensions, and think that some of the bounty collectors should have been suspended as well.

    I don't understand why someone making millions of dollars a year, risks additonal personal injury, suspension and/or penalty for $1500.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • rd

      can you say MORONS

      March 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rizzo

    I can't believe people are surprised about this. It's a game where huge men hit eachother really hard for stupid amounts of money...honestly I don't even see anything wrong with this. You're paying a guy over a million dollars to hit another guy really hard, what's an extra couple grand bonus for helping your team and hurting the opposing team?

    Now if you want to talk about how paying a guy over a million dollars to hit guys really hard is messed up in the first place, well, there's a conversation I'll gladly have.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • j

      The fans are paying those millions (billions, actually) of dollars. In ticket sales, jersey sales, and by buying products from companies that advertise during commercials. Who should get all that cash? I'll 100% agree that no athlete deserves to be paid millions per year to play a game, but I also don't think that owners deserve to make billions to organize a bunch of athletes that play a game. Let them all have their huge salaries, and then tax the sh!t out of all of them IMO.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 1CentFree

    Well deserved. Teams should not provide incentives for physically injuring opponents. The sport is rough enough as it is. Incentives should be given for WINNING. You can win games without paralyzing people, or sending them to the hospital.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. soulcatcher

    I can understand the wrongness of bouties for injuries and hits, but what is the problem with conuses for interceptions or fumbles?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mobetta

    And from Denver – this word just out on where Tim Tebow is going next..... he's going to open a pizza place called Cheesus Crust...

    March 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BC

    Here come all the former dirty players out of the woodwork saying that's part of football, the best players in history hit hard, what's the big deal, blah, blah, blah. Besides the fact that they are all defensive backs with huge egos.
    You know what? The elite players in history were not dirty players. As for the hard hitting players in the Hall of Fame – many of them were dirty players and that's a shame. There were also some hard-hitting clean players – like Willie Lanier. I understand the game of football is violent, and you have to hit hard to take a guy down. But do you hit hard to try and make a guy be in a wheelchair the rest of his life? That's what dirty players bring to the game every time they play.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom in San Diego

    Fire these idiots...don't suspend them, JAIL them....

    March 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. WillnAtlanta

    This is very revealing and what it really does is tarnishes the image and accomplishments of the Saints. It says they aren't good enough to win fairly. They have to cheat to win which is pathetic.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Who Dat!

      There was no cheating involved. It was simple, "Hey, go kick a$$ in this game and make some good hits and you'll get X amount of dollars." They did the job, did the work, got paid for it, and the $$ is the issue. What football player doesn't go out there trying to get good hits and play their hardest? The money was motivation to work harder. Cheating was not an issue...$$ is the issue. Hater.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Who Dat!

    HELLO...It's not about the hits, the injuries, etc. It's about players getting paid in excess of their contracts! There's a cap for a reason. There are salaries for a reason. "Hey, come play for us and we'll give you X amount" but then under the table they're getting paid more if they perform better. It's not about the hits. It's about $$.

    If you perform well at work, you get a bonus don't you? Problem is, money is a HUGE issue in the NFL. They are using the Saints as an example..and that is why Sean P. was suspended for a year. Setting an example...and it sucks.

    We are down, but not out. Who Dat Nation Baby!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NFL is Bestest

    Worse things occur in international soccer games, and they don't really wear pads and generate more horrific leg snapping injuries... want to make the sport of football "safer", take away all the protective gear and see how many people are willing to deal "knock out" shots without a helmet and face mask to protect them from injury.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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