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. Jason

    Who Dat, Who Dat, that ain't getting a draft pick.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TSRVT

    That's a stiff penalty but Goodell did the right thing. And if you believe Drew Brees, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie Hookland

      I agree with you completely TSRVT.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stfu!

    Who cares?!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pat Gleason

      It was the right thing to do. Football is a tough game, but there also has to be an emphasis on sportsmanship. Winning at all costs and especially purposely trying to main or injure another person is way out of line when it comes to sportsmanship. It's a business, yes, but there still have to be ethics, and it is also a game that kids play and look to the professional ranks as role models.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BOB


    March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WDinDallas

    Way overboard! Gregg Williams for a year, sure. This will still not stop the players from creating a bounty pool. This happens in High School!!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Thats just an indictment on US HS football then.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. martin

    You know they didn't claim the $$$ they got for their actions. Call the IRS, then it's out of the Commissioners hands, which can then wring in sympathy for the perps.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BOB


    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Oshis

    I can't remember who it was, but when Romo was playing with a broken rib or 2 this last season didn't a DB say if he got the chance he was gonna put his helmet right into Romos ribs? No suspension or fine over that.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TA

      I remember that- it was a corner back from Atlanta who never hit anyone anyway

      March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Typical

    This about mirrors the hypocrisy of every day white, Southern, self-proclaimed "Christians" calling themselves "saints"

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tonya

      I am white with a Black grandbaby, I am Southern, I am not a self proclaimed Christian......(not quite perfect enough, though I strongly believe in God), but I DO call myself a Saint....PROUDLY!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. woodofpine

    The League is sending a message in CAPITAL letters!! NO's 2012-2013 season is over. Oww!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    This practice invites illegal hits...hits that could end careers...maybe cripple or even kill in the extreme. Just cuz some guys have done it in the past doesn't make it right. It speaks to a low level of "character" that a player has if he wants to break your knees.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. karl

    wow! thats huge! if the NFL is going this far to punish the coaching staff how about suspending the players who contributed to this "cash pool"???

    March 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stfu!

    I just took another dump. Fine me!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JamesT297

    What a pleasant surprise that the NFL did something. Although they stopped short of taking measures that would go further to make sure everyone in the league gets the message. Big question is why the league nothing to individual players who actually received the bounties or otherwise participated in the scheme. They should all have been fined heavily and suspended for a season or so.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian Brees

    I knew BREES wouldn't be in on this. He's such a great guy. He said on his foundations website he knew nothing about it. He probably would have turned them in himself if he knew. He's such a great guy. I bet he's saving somebody's life as we speak.

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