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. dank

    Not good them. Intentionally injuring others is assault–someone could have been paralyzed or killed. Fire them, then jail time.

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

      Settle down sweetie. The players do this whether there's a bounty program around it or not. It's called "part of the game", and slamming your opponent(s) is part of the strategy to win. If it's too violent for you, then feel free to watch the cooking channel.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • alfranken

      They can't fire them till they complete the course of due process. If found innocent, the defendants will sue the league for defamation of character and damages which would assume they lost their legacy - basically a lot of money.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gfreas

      What a stupid comment. Yes, let's prosecute everyone for things you don't agree with. Football is a violent game; by your lame standards, they should outlaw the game. Stupid.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Really. You are a real tool.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Say it Ain't So Joe

      Killed...really? Players will have this mentality regardless and have had this mentality for decades, how many players have been killed? That is the same stupid over reaction that the NFL is showing in their punishment. Defensive players will still be trying to hit as hard as they possibly can regardless of any bounty for doing so. To think otherwise is foolish.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeyD

      Then you should watch another sport. Like ping pong. I don't ever want to see any player seriously hurt, especially in a way that ends their career, but this is football! Maybe boxers and mixed martial artists should have a contest to see who can knit the nicest sweater because someone might otherwise get hurt. We're talking about the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!!!! The reason the players get paid millions of dollars is because the game is dangerous and physical. Goodell needs to go before the NFL loses its entire fan base.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dank is a pansy!

      @Karen.....Awesome, well said!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Who Dat

    Goody goody Goodell strikes again. "Oh, no, football is too violent"...what a pansy. These guys are paid millions to put it on the line and they accept the risks of injury in exchange for women, fame and money. In HS we got a t-shirt for the "hardest hit". College players get stickers for their helmets. I have seen no proof that anyone was paid a "bounty" for an illegal hit. They were recognized and given a pittance from a pool for hard, clean, legal football hits. This is akin to the feds raiding your workplace, calling it a gambling den and sentencing everyone to a year in jail because you and your co-workers paid for brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament. The punishment is excessive and unjustified.

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

      You go out trying to hurt someone on the field and someones getting hurt. Either you or them. Thats the issue, the chance of incentive for ruining some guys career. Total garbage imo. The incentive is the contract and the goal should only be to win. Yeah I know football, its dirty; but theirs cheap and dirty, this scandal is cheap and dirty.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Even if you think the violence aspect is no an issue, please consider the FACT that the NFL FORBIDS teams to offer incentives outside of a players contract.

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

      "These guys are paid millions to put it on the line and they accept the risks of injury in exchange for women, fame and money" ...AS PART OF THE GAME! not as a result of someone trying to make money by deliberately injuring them severely enough that they cannot return to the field. How can you not condemn that idea?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mendrys

      No proof? They've already admitted cash payouts for taking players out of the game and for being carted off of the field. There is a difference in a good, clean, hard hit and one administered with the sole purpose of injuring another player.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      How primitive are you? Shall we just bring back the colosseum, in a way we have with ultimate fighting. A good hit in football is just that a good hit but trying to intentionally injure someone is ridiculous and barbaric. If the whole league played that way we would have a terrible NFL because it would be filled with mindless play instead of what it is today, a highly physical game highlighted by exceptionally athletes and yes even using their brains. Not like the Saint’s defense. Oh and yes Drew knew of this, they all did as they chanted pay me in the locker room. Drew is a joke for denying it.

      I also think the refs should be looked at, in that NFC Championship game against the Vikings the Vikings clearly won that game had it not been for the poor officiating which clearly looked the other way while Favre was hit late over and over.

      The Saints have been and always will be the Ain’ts and should have their rings removed!

      March 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sean

    Good for the league. Yes, the NFL is a violent league/sport but you don't create a culture of injuring players. Hit them hard and legal and move on to the next play but when you are telling players – "I dont' want this player getting up" that takes it to a new level. Everyone who says that bounties are part of the game are crazy,

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • You know nothing!

      You obviously have never played the game!!! It all starts in Little League, we had bounties for the hardest hits when I was 12!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MikeyD

    Goodell is an @ $$ clown who needs to go. He turned the National Football League into the No Fun League, and now the pansy league. Pretty soon the ladies of the lingerie league will be hitting harder than NFL players. If Goodell doesn't leave on his own, somebody needs to step up and remove him before he completely neuters the sport. Too bad we lost Al Davis, he would have had the balls to step up and tell it like it is and urge the other owners to send Goodell packing.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Skunk-the-Noodle

    I love football and never want to see any player suffer a serious injury. This really disappoints.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CNNuthin

    Happens in Baseball when pitchers will try to hit certain batters. Soccer with going for the back or side of the leg. Hockey with everything they do to one another. I am sure there are more examples (these are just they key sports I watch)

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Ok so in baseball theres backing a hitter off the plate. Then theres planning ahead of time to send 95mph chin music his way and the chance of getting rewarded for taking him out of the game. Capiche?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just be quite

      @Joseph....ahhh sorry to burst your bubble but pitcher through a 95 MPH fastball at batter's heads all the time!!! You probably should know about your topic before commenting!

      March 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NFC South Fan

    Now there is no excuse for the other teams to not win. Gooddell damn near took the team away.

    But whatever the case is, the Saints will bounce back. They always do. I don't buy a lot of what's been said though. Something about a 3 year investigation that finally came to light COINCIDENTLY as the city of New Orleans was chosen to HOST the Superbowl.....that's fishy. Why wait until now. It took three years??

    Sorry more to this. Has to be. Not buying it one bit.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry L

    In the late 50s I was a kid in Texas and our Jr. High Coach football coach kept a record to grade us for making the starting lineup. We got points for injuring or drawing blood from our own teamates during practice. The players with the most points were starters. He also taught us the fine arts of twisting knees, driving the helmet into the chest and doing a crack-back block in such a way to increase the probability of a knee injury to the blocked player. We won all of our games for several years in a row and dominated the sport in our area. Our players went on to do great things in high school and college. He took particular pleasure when our all-white team inflicted injury on minority kids we played – and used racial slurs throughout the game to motivate us and reward our actions. This coach was an Little All-American graduate of a good Texas "Christian" University and all of our activities included prayer. I'm 65 years old now and still suffer injuries sustained while playing for this hateful moron. Maybe the Saints coaches were trained by a similar fool.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pat Gleason

      That's a sad part of our high school legacy, but I'm sure that coach wasn't alone in doing those things

      March 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Damn thats DIRTY ball! I knew of these coaches but only in stories from my coaches lol.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Not enough. Ban him from football.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rd

    another slap on the wrist!! why are they allowed back at all? all this says is this what happens if you get caught. these guys broke rules that effect outcome of games, not to mention intentional infliction to injure. The cheats should b banned from NFL or any other organization they belong to that they have misled through their low-life character. what a shame

    March 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. larry simpson

    now the feds should file attempted murder on the entire saints organization and close the franchise for good

    March 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WorkingInVA

    If the other team has better players than you do, and the only way you can defeat them is by intentionally injuring those players, then that makes your team a bunch of losers. Football is rough, and players are going to get hurt when the game is played cleanly, but this is too much. Kind of reminds me of Hockey and all the fighting. I don't watch Hockey, and don't let my kids watch it for that reason. If this is how pro football is played, we'll stop watching that too. LaVar Arrington is on a local radio station. He's OK most of the time, but can go off the deep end sometimes like he does on this issue. Perhaps too many shots to the head. If that's how he played the game, I don't have any respect for him.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Frank A NYC

    Football is a collision sport and injuries are part of the sport. But, to purposely try and injure a player so he is "carted off" is disgusting. Play within the rules! The fact that some players need an additional $1,500 bucks to hit hard or take a cheap shot on another player is just sad.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Phil in Oregon

    The legal system could learn from this.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. paulyrulo

    Drew brees is a liar! These things fly around the locker room faster than Bob hayes going on a fly pattern. I'm sure every player knew this pracuice was taking he's not only a liar but also rubbing it into the face of the NFL (Roger Goodell) and all the fans.....He has lost a lot of luster by making that lying statement.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
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