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. Laurie

    I understand football is a rough sport. The worst part is that the players were paid money to do that. WRONG! Play the game – follow the rules.

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

    A stiff punishment, obviously meant to be an example for other teams. The Saints probably didn't deserve to get hit that hard, but I think the NFL wants to make sure that this activity is stopped and cracked down upon by other teams wanting to avoid a similar fate. Especially when they heard the mumurings about just how prevalent the practice is. The penalty is obviously designed as a deterrant and a message to ALL teams to stop this practice immediately.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Bob

    They need jail time, including the players that inflicted the injuries.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mrdells

    I believe that when you are suspended you loose your pay for the time suspended so no pay for Peyton

    March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steven

    WOW!!!!! That was some stiff (required) enforcement from the league, teams are going to think reallly hard about bounties now.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    Also, this could affect the Saint's for more than just this year...might be a good time for Drew to get outta town...they haven't signed him yet have they?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Moose

    Bounties are awarded from school aged player thru the pros. I remember getting skull & cross bone sticker on my helmet for every "snot knocker" hit I gave... There is an incentive to go blow someone up on the field. In college you do it for beer and pizza and pros, you do it for house notes...This is the NFL over reacting to something as usual. You don't think Peyton Manning has a bounty on his NECK this coming season?! Every D-linemen is gonna slap, forearm and punch Manning's neck every chance they get. It's a gladiators game. Well, RUGBY is but football tries to be one.

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

      "It's a gladiators game."

      no, really it isnt. That is why there are rules and such.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasmine

      Overeacting? I dont think so ,its called setting a precedence. It should never be tolerated ,to purposely injure any player. The sport is about getting the ball down the field not who we can knockout and for how very wrong. This teams ethics and morals are very unsportsmanlike and I think they should have hit them hard as they did.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brenda

    This has been going on since the beginning of the NFL,....every team in the NFL is guilty of this practice at some time....why now...why make the SAINTS their scapegoat??????

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

      Because President Bush hates New Orleans and black people

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

    Sean's gone fishing!

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

    I applaud the NFL for taking this action. The notion that a bounty would be paid to entice players to set out to intentionally harm an opponent is completely offensive, barbaric and disgusting; not to mention unsportsmanlike. If you can't win fairly, because you are simply BETTER than your opponent, then you shouldn't win. Employing these types of tactics to win makes you a pathetic human being and you should be banned from the sport completely; not just one year or six games or whatever. The NFL needs to take steps to expunge these sorts from their ranks completely and explicably.

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


      March 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Big_D

    Wow the NFL grew some for once. Marty did this for years in KC and they never were this harsh. Drew Breeze must love having his career look like a joke. The cheating in the NFL is nothing compared to the star calls in the NBA. "If you think the NBA refs are bad you should watch professional wrestling."

    March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. anti-brainwashing

    Too harsh....only soccer playing cnn viewers would disagree

    March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      soccer playing cnn viewers know how easy it is to get a career ending injury through such actions and condemn the bounty system.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. The Man's Man

    I want to know why they aren't serving jail time. The only difference between what these guys did and hiring a thug to kill a neighbor is the degree of injury.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim P

    This isn't the America I grew up in....Sorry to say.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. karl

    hmmmm, $1500 for a "knock out" hit, like a blow to the helmet will net you a $25-$50k fine. i dont see the incentive here!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
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