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. Sarah Conner

    I was one of the few that noticed the Saints were playing dirty espexially the year they won the SB. No honor in playing dirty. Drew masked it with his white bread image but I saw through it. Strip them of the super bowl trophy.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      You can't really be this stupid right?

      March 22, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • jessica

      omg get a life and read the article.. its been going on forever and nobody played any differently that year than any other year... also IN THE ARTICLE it said that drew brees knew nothing of it

      March 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • whirlwindshadow

      One of the few idiots who don't know anything about football.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NFLHypocrites

    So the NFL promotes (and makes Billions from) the big hits, sacks, knockdowns, forced fumbles, separating the ball from the player, etc. Every week you can listen to announcers, coaches and players talk about how the defense needs to get the QB, knock him down, hit him, punish the other team, etc. Players are judged and rewarded on their ability to do exactly that.

    Yet we are supposed to believe that a $1500 bounty makes a player making millions go out and do something he wouldn't be trying to do otherwise? Ludicrous! As far as intentionally injuring, if that was the true intent, why were there not a slew of players carted off during this time period? It seems to me that it would be pretty easy to injure someone in a game if that was the primary objective. I understand the NFL wanting to send a message, but Goodell should then punish himself, and the entire league for being complicit in developing the culture that rewards and encourages this behavior. So NFL, why don't you come clean.....this is all about having a scapegoat for getting caught breaking a league rule and making a dirty little secret public. It has nothing to do with "player safety" other than creating the perception that they are doing something about it. The game didn't get any safer this afternoon after this was announced. Hypocrisy at its best.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • NFLBoycot

      NFLHypocrites – you hit the NAIL on the head. $1500 is play money to these guys and if they were seriously doing this for the money the sidelines would have been empty!
      This practice is is league wide, not just this team. They hated that Brett didn't go to the SB as they wanted a Peyton/Farve showdown in '09, there is NO doubt about that.
      And I read that the Colts had gotten off with no penalties after their bounty accusation – which I am sure took place as well. NFL has placed so many rules on the game, it is becoming a joke. I for one am boycotting the game, hope others to follow, hit the NFL in THEIR pockets, but I am sure they won't feel it after the $500k they get from the Saints.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Roxy

    Why isn't paying a human to deliberately injure another considered felonious assault and conspiracy? These were acts well outside the boundaries of "sport" and should be prosecuted as such.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SPENT

    This sucks! America love violence and we are thwarted by this ruling.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Henry

    In the playoff game against Brett Favre, it was clear as day to me they were trying to hurt him, he was one tough SOB. This and the "strip the ball" mentality has ruined the game/business/crap for me permanently. Isn't it "tackle football"? Not tear their head off football? Or stand them up and strip the ball out football? Which is it, tell us, some of us are adults!!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Strip the ball? As in turnovers? Henry come on......You can't seriously be replying to this topic by complaining about turnovers. wow

      March 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan

    Um, really it's these guys' jobs to seek and destroy. They are paid to be big, intimidating, and damn-near indestructible. They're not babysitters; they're bodyguards.

    Why else do they wear padding?!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tarviler

    This has gone well beyond the arena of sport and the ability of any league to handle. This comprised a criminal conspiracy and should be investigated accordingly. In any other arena it would be. A grand jury should be conviened in every NFL team state and proceed with proper investigation of illegal actions by groups of people that just happen to play football.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. what a croc

    This sort of stuff has been going on since professional football began. Holy crap epeople. Even HS boys get a high-five when they take the QB out of the game. Sure, the Saint's were stupid enough to leave a trail, but if you just keep your mouth shut and 'Dick Butkus' your opponent out of the game, it's all good.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ♔Mmmmm♕

    bree you're such a wimp...yah kno' you were thuggin' with the thuggers...and weeeeee supposed t'believe the earwax gluedcha ears shut while hurt locker braggin' rights and bounty were hurled and tossed about the dressing room??? oh plzzzz, not buyin' it!

    March 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |

    So much for showing solidarity Drew. I'm sure variations of bounties exist throughout the's part of the game.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bounty

    And it's not like the NFL's commisioner called for the killing of a well known suspected criminal, and convince most fans it was for the good of the game, and it's ok if the suspects are legal American citizens. Even in HS we have player pools where fi you say, take-out the opposing team's QB you win the cash pool. FB is just a game. Political stars are for real.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |

    New Orleans Saints....Scratch that
    New Orleans Aints....Scratch that
    From this day forth, they shall be known as the...

    March 22, 2012 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Really

    I haven't gone back and looked at every comment but I got a couple of questions that maybe you all can answer.

    1) Do you honestly believe that 6-7 figure guys are really going to jeopardize their careers for $1500-10k? Do you really think that that small amount of money will make them even MORE violent than they already are?

    2) For all of you talking about lawsuits, show me the illegal hits. Show me the fines/suspensions. Show me where money was actually exchanged. Because if Goodel was warning these guys since their SB season, they have had to keep an eye on them since and if this program was still going down, there would have been a lot more fines/suspensions from this. Good luck with this in court.

    3) Is it really head hunting if you knock a guy out on a perfectly legal play and not let's just say, regular old football how it's been played for years?

    I need answers

    March 22, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |

      M guess is that you are Taints fan, blinded by your loyalty to a cr@ppy city and team. You best move on to the Jests like Tebow.

      March 22, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Greggers

    Makes Payton's freak sideline injury seem poetic.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ryan

    Good for the NFL, this is getting out of hand

    March 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
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