NFL Suspends Saints Coach Payton, GM Loomis, Others For "Bounty" Program
Their head coach, Sean Payton, has been suspended for a year without pay (a salary of $8 million). Their general manager, Mickey Loomis, has been banned for the first eight games of the regular season. Their assistant coach, Joe Vitt, was also banned for the first six games of the season. Not to mention that the team was fined $500,000 and stripped of their second-round draft pick in 2012 and 2013.
These punishments came off of the heel of an investigation conducted by the NFL concerning a bounty program that rewarded defensive players for harsh hits during games. Any payoffs toward specific plays during games are considered against NFL policies. They include interceptions and fumbles, not just game-ending injuries.
The "bounty fund" was run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He left New Orleans to become coordinator with the St. Louis Rams, but now Williams has been suspended indefinitely by the league. The other coaches and executives suspended were harshly criticized for allegedly knowing about Williams' program but doing nothing to stop it.
The program supposedly reached $50,000 during the 2009 season when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was unsympathetic to the Saints and issued this statement after the announcements of the punishment.
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities," Goodell said. "No one is above the game or the rules that govern it."
Quarterback Drew Brees came out in defense of his coach shortly after the announcement.
"I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment," Brees tweeted.
Payton is the first head coach ever to be suspended for any reason.
The Saints have issued a statement on their website repeating their pledge that this bounty program will never happen again and to express their gratitude for their fans.
“We are humbled by the support our organization has received from our fans today in the wake of this announcement, and we ask them to continue to stand with us, as they have done in the past, when both our team and our city have overcome greater adversities,” the statement reads.
Punishment for players involved in the bounty program still has yet to be determined because the league is still consulting with the NFL Players Association.
However, Goodell was consistent in his disapproval and said, "while I will not address player conduct at this time, I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players, including leaders among the defensive players, embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players."
Goodell has publicly asked other team-owners to ensure that there are no bounty programs occurring within their own organization.