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. POD

    Get a grip you guys....this is a GAME!.....It is not WAR....Its not even a Sport anymore....It's Sportotainment Marketing Scams. You fools get all dressed up in those 100 dollar 'game shirts' with those 20 dollar team hats and pay 20 for parking, 2,000 for a seat license and like 150 for a ticket to ONE GAME. What's wrong with you. You got your Crud-Lite beer in the cooler with your 89oz bag of Notchou Chips and you sit there screaming for one group of morons to knock the crap out of another group of morons........Isn't that why God invented HOCKEY!

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

      Hockey is for those floppy-headed Canadians. The Fooseball is for Americans. 🙂

      March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. XxMacleodxX

    he got lucky ...most people go to jail for intentionally trying to hurt someone

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

    I don't get it...Bill had a guy with a camera in plain sight on the sidelines and still catches grief about it....but Mr untouchable Sean is ok with game ending, and maybe career ending injuries and catches less grief than Bill. A lot of 2 faced people out there.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ken Benedict

    And then they have nerve enough to kneel down and pray.........

    March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dan

    This all a loaod of crap. Why dont we just turn it into flag football. Whats next, tell boxing that they can no longer punch in the face. they are brutal sports. Like it or not that it a big part of what the fan like to see is a hard hit. I DO NOT agree with trying to permantly hurt someone, EVER. But the pansy, yes I said it, rules about hitd in general are just getting worse. If you don't want a contact sport where people might get hurt, watch golf or paint dry.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      If you truly believe in " I DO NOT agree with trying to permantly hurt someone, EVER" then how can this be a load of crap seeing as that is exactly what they are punishing.
      and seriously football is not a 'brutal sport', the aim is not to beat the crap out of the other team, if you think it is then maybe you so start going to watch cage fights where you can get your fill of blood.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • docdeb

      Even in Boxing Bozo they have rules and hitting below the belt. Games are not there to kill, paralyze or maim opponents. That you don't get that is very sad.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tim Krell

    Congrads to Roger Godell for making the NFL more like a high school powder puff football league.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. R O

    Finally, justice. Anyone watching the Vikings/Saints game in 2010 could see the Saints were playing to injure Favre. Thank God Brett wasn't injured more seriously, or even died, because they'd all be facing murder charges right now. The Super Bowl Trophy should be stripped from them and noted in all of the record books.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      What color is your dress?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      I Agree R O. I knew something was up during that game. Unreal.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Are you kidding me??

      Give me a break, every team is trying to get to the QB and hurt him, and in EVERY game!!! Just as Dan asked, what color is your dress?? LOL

      March 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Shawn

    I understand the idea of punishing the team, coach, and players, but I did not see any players suspneded for any length of time, and why did the Patriots not get any coaches suspneded when they filmed and cheated during the season to win games. I see cheating to win more explosive than players hitting other players.

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

    what was the pay out for killing a player?.....

    March 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. phearia


    March 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael in Houston

    Nice play with words Drew. You knew what was going on. Do you think we are all that stupid? The Saints are nothing but a collection of thugs and cheaters. I would like to see the NFL ban the whole freakin team for one year.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bud

    Mr. Goodell ...good for you. You deserve a standing ovation!!!

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

    Payton and the rest of the Saints got what they deserve. I think Payton should be banned from the NFL indefinitely and Drew Brees knew nothing about it???? Give me a break…talk about CYA.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JA

      Brees saying he knew nothing "relating to its real existence"....doesn't sound like zero knowledge.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 49ersLife

    Now what are the crybaby Saints fans going to make up as an excuse for this.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Saintsraints

    Dree Brees is the leader of this team and he's dumbing up. Should be suspended for being a suck!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • docdeb

      Yeah that is wussy of him. Isn't he the "captain?"

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