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."

FULL STORY
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. nflimage

    This is stupid, all teams do it. This was done to appease sponsors and super bowl fans.

    Real football fans and players are laughing at them for this stupidity. This is dumb NFL. Although the players who opened their mouth are even dumber, should have stayed in the locker room.

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

      Right....so next time why not arm your players with maces and swords if you want real injuries.

      Its pretty easy to condone this from your vantage point in the stands or at home on your big screen tv.....

      lets see you run down on the field and line up against those huge opponents...you'll be calling for help from your mommy!

      March 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      nflimage,tell us how you'd be if one of your KEY players was put out with a supposive hit,injuring him.You'd be climbing the walls raising hell,wanting revenge against them,you know it.You'd want fines ,penalties levied,heads to roll.So please,don't be such a hypocrite,you know they deserve it,its a better game without it.Ask Buddy Ryan,he knows if you remember football...

      March 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. paulyrulo

    Hurting star players dilutes the game...its not fiar to ANYONE including the fans. Its also the wrong message to send to kids who play sports. I love all the macho jerkballs who condone this behavior because it isnt happening to them. How would they like a torn up knee or broken collarbone? Football is rough enough without expressly TRYING to inlfict injury on purpose. If you ever played real football you wouldnt have such big balls to condone this practice.

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

    AND who expected anything less than something like this going on....certainly NOT me. I'm sure 110% that there are many other things we don't know about. With anything or anybody, when there is serious money flowing....wrong doing is sure to follow. I watch the games but, do not support any of the teams nor spend a dime on their team products. These players are a bunch of overpaid cry babies. Expect more of these stories to follow. Pay them less and watch the WRONG go away. Put some players in that play the game for the sport and pay them a normal wage and watch how good they can be. Pro Sports is and has been out of control. SO DON"T BE SHOCKED BY THE WRONG DOING.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chris caldwell

    "When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards..."
    Uh...Isn't this what the sport of football is about? It ain't badminton. There is a disease known as dementia pugilistica, or punch-drunk syndrome, which, until recently the overwhelming majority of its victims were boxers. Not anymore. Researchers have found a deep and disturbing association between it and football.

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

      I played high school and college ball as a middle linebacker. Hard hits and intimidation, yes – that's part of the defensive game, and part of the offense where you can give it. Actual attempts to seriously injure an opponent? That has no place in the game. I was at the Raiders-Patriots game when Darryl Stingley was hit by Jack Tatum. At first, there was a lot of whoopin' and hollerin' by the Oakland crowd, but after a while, when people saw no movement from Stingley at all and the trainers and medics were out there for a long time, it sunk in to the crowd that something real serious had happened. As time went by, that was about the quietest Raider crowd in history. Undoubtedly there are a small number of idiots who cheer that sort of thing, but the vast majority who do want to see hard, physical football do NOT want to see serious life or career affecting injury to any player.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. coastlinecascot

    We had something of an incentive program like this when I played collegiate football. Nothing new, its a violent game. If you dont like it dont watch.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 1CentFree

    You want to stop to excessive force? Put in a rule that pays the injured player directly from the hitter's pocket. Anytime there's a flagrant hit with obvious intent, take money from the hitter and pay it to the victim. After watching a few players drive around in brand new cars funded by a few knuckleheads, the practice will stop.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • KenC

      That's a great idea! But remember these players are mostly thugs and idiots, they probably wouldn't understand the concept. Unless it was written in a Dr. Seuss book style.

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

    This is something new and improved? I know two NFL players from yesteryear that their teams had similar bounties going on as well as club fines if they received a penalty like offsides or holding. This reminds me of college teams that get sanctioned for recruiting practices. The league will make an example out of a team when all have similar practices but are better about not being caught.

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

    Does anyone actually believe Drew Brees had no knowledge of the bounty system.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    Is being paid to hurt someone called criminal assault? This is just the NFL's response. I have to imagine there will be a criminal investigation as well. This may be far from over.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mad Russian

    Playing hard and putting in as much is one thing, intentionally trying to injure a player is another thing. Look at what happened to Steve Moore in the NHL after Todd Bertuzzi attacked him from behind as retribution. It ended his career and put him in a life threatening situation. This a clear violation of idea of sportsmanship. Saying that it's a physical game is a clear cop out from accepting responsibility for trying to injure someone. The best fighters in the world understand the idea of concept of stopping to prevent any major injury. Why should other athletes be expected to behave differently?

    March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joe

    African orange ball

    March 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TOMG

    IT IS TOO LATE TO LET THE COMMISSIONER KNOW ALL THIS BOUNTY HAVE BEEN GOING ON SINCE MICHEAL VICK WAS BROKE HIS LEG BACK IN THE 2OO4 YEAR GAME AGAINST THE EAGLE ERA , AMEN .

    March 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TOMG

    MICHAEL VICK IS A GREAT PLAYER OF ALL TIME IN THE Q.B. POSITION ON THE RUSHING YARDS STATISTICALLY , AMEN . GOD WILL ALWAYS BLSSING ONTO YOU MICHAEL VICK PEACE AND HARMONY TIME ARE NOW , NO LOOKING BACK , BECAUSE LIFE FORM ARE ALWAYS WILL BE IN THE KARMA WAY OF NATURE LIFE , AMEN . NO ESCAPE FROM THE ALL CAUSE AND AFFECT THAT CREATING THE KARMA IN THE FIRST PLACE OF ANIMAL HUMAN NATURE THINKING WAY OF ANIMAL LIFE ON THE DAILY BASIC OF THE MONEY POWER TO STARTING OUT WITH , AMEN .

    March 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TOMG

    ANY WAY I STILL LOVE N.F.L. AND N.B.A. THOUGHT , AMEN . GOD BLESS AMERICA LAND OF THE FREE , AMEN . AND THE LAW OF STEEL WILL ALWAYS BE COMING AFTER THE BAD GUY ALWAYS WILL BE ,AMEN .

    March 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      It's Ahmen not amen......anyway....

      March 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. x277

    I too am laughing at all these so called wanna be macho tough guys that scream "its a part of the game". WRONG, intentionally trying to injure someone is not part of football. Of course players get hurt in the sport, its a violent sport and no one disputes that. Injuries do happen and will continue to happen. The issue here is players intentionally trying to injure someone and then on top of that getting rewards for it. What part of INTENTIONALLY INJURING don't you understand? That behavior should NEVER be tolerated. Football is violent enough as it is without some thugs trying to end someone's day, season, or even career due to a dirty unnecessary hit. I would agree the Saints aren't the only team that does this, but whatever, they are the ones that got caught, so they now will suffer the consequences. People speed in their cars every single day, but does everyone get caught? No.

    You say "its part of the game", well in that case, I guess if a defender is tired of getting burnt by the opposing team's star player all day, then all he has to do is wait until the guy plants his feet in the turf, and then the defender can just jam his cleats into the RB's knee tearing his ACL. Or how about if you're tired of the receiver catching everything, then next time just aim for his head at full speed and knock him completely out, Who knows, maybe you broke the guys neck and he's wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. YEAH!! PAYDAY FOR YOU!!! WHOOPIEEE......idiots...

    March 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      I believe there are measures in place during the course of the game that not only identify this, but also punish properly. The reason everyone is split on this issue is because it we are having a hard time identifying what exactly they are complaining about. They say "bounty" i see good aggressive football (sometimes). Your WWF description of someone bonking someone over the head with a chair doesn't apply.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
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