NFL punishes Saints for bounty program
For their roles in "Bounty-gate," Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended by the league for one year effective April 1, while Gregg Williams - who was the Saints' DC and alleged mastermind of the bounty scandal - has been suspended indefinitely by the league and will meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell after the 2012 season to determine his status.
In addition, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight regular-season games, assistant Joe Vitt has been suspended for the first six, and the franchise itself was fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks in both 2012 and 2013.
The suspensions of Payton, Loomis, and Vitt are without pay, and Vitt was also fined $100,000 as well.
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," Goodell said in a statement announcing the punishments. "We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised."
In the statement, Commissioner Goodell also said that punishment for any Saints players involved will be determined at a later date because the league is still reviewing the case with the NFLPA, but that a "strong and lasting message" was sent in the suspensions of the coaches and executives involved.
"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious," Goodell said. "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 Saints must nowhave not yet said who will step in as interim coach of the team in Payton's absence, nor have they decided who will make personnel decisions while Loomis is barred.
In addition, the St. Louis Rams and new head coach Jeff Fisher, who hired Williams away from New Orleans in January, must now find a new defensive coordinator as well. In an ironic twist, the man who replaced Williams as the Saints' DC (and may end up stepping in as interim coach) is Steve Spagnuolo - who was the Rams' head coach prior to Fisher and was relieved of his duties after the 2011 season.
Williams, for his part, has admitted to (and apologized for) running the bounty program, which an NFL investigation revealed gave payoffs to anywhere from 22 to 27 players for hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games. Payton and Loomis also apologized, taking blame for the violations.
Payouts for specific game performances, whether they are harmful in intent or are as simple as scoring a touchdown or making an interception, are against NFL rules.