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. JoDi

    Okay – Next team Goodell – They all do it.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. x277

    Anyone else waiting for James Harrison's response?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. T Will

    He should have been banned for life !!! The entire city of New Orleans has been plagued with violence as a whole so he is a fine example...

    March 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • rd

      agreed! if they were banned for life people would wake up!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MeetThyMaker

    Football is a total trash game. Typical American garbage. It is full of brainless morons. Its not even art, and cant be appreciated for anything other than its violence. GARBAGE

    March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      I know, unlike European 'Football, which is full of intellectual giants and fans; oh wait, don't they kill each others fans at the games there?

      March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Laurie in Spokane

    This type of thing is why I abhor pro sports – all of 'em. There's no gamesmanship about them – t's lall cutthroat, big-business, and greed. Don't need it.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mep

    Players may have always had a "seek and destroy" mentality, but i think the real issue is that there was a pool and a monetary award. That makes is more than a mentality. It is now a reward.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry

    Pretty obvious when they played Favre and Minnesota. They were trying to cripple him and did a decent job of it. Fire the lot of them!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • me138

      That game broke my heart.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MoMo

    For years I have said that I will not watch football because its sole purpose is to see how badly you can hurt another human without getting caught. Now there is very sad. Parents, keep your youngsters away from this horrible game!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Judy

    Awe poo...Give me a break, Every team does this they just got caught.Just like Nixon..they all do it but he got caught.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JC

    And they Franchise Tagged Brees? Man, now THAT is a scary decision! Watch him walk.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Certainly gives him and easy out......just like Elway using Manning to allow him to get rid of Tebow. I wonder if Brees has a "Morals" clause that allows him out if the Saints violate it? Interesting thought anyway!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Riptim

    Thats all they are getting, suspension for a year and a small fine and a couple of 2nd round draft picks. At best peyton should be banned for 3 years along with the rest of the idiots who went along with this and the saints should lose there 1st and 2nd picks for 5 years and fined at least ten million dollars.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jpex

    Who dat say gonna coach dat team?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. The Roc

    just because every team does it does not make it right....hard punishment....not sure I agree with that but I do agree with holding a team accountable.....

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gfreas

    What's the difference between recruiting players who have the instinct to "kill" their opponents and creating this instinct in others using money? Football is big business; "bounties" are what the white-collar business world calls "bonuses." Make the sale at all cost; win the game at all cost. Same thing. Nobody playing the game doesn't know this when going in. Don't like it, don't sing-up to play.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim in Florida

    The NFL didn't want the Saints to make the Super Bowl in 2012-13 season. It will be played in New Orleans. This BS insures that won't happen. The NFL is corrupt, you thinkk bounties are bad? Check out the Commissioner's Office.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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