The NFL came down hard on the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday. Saints coach Sean Payton has been suspended for one year, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight regular-season games, the team was fined $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks (one in 2012 and ’13) as a result of a bounty program conducted by the team during the 2009-11 seasons.
Details of an NFL investigation released at the beginning on March reported that the Saints’ bounty program gave thousands of dollars in payoffs to players for hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games. The NFL said the amounts reached their height in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The league said between 22 and 27 Saints defensive players were involved in the program.
Williams, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, has admitted to and apologized for running the program.
Payton and Loomis apologized and took the blame for violations that “happened under our watch,” but not until almost a week after the NFL pointed to them for failing to stop the program.
Goodell has frequently taken a hard line on any action that threatens player safety. He suspended Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh for two games for stomping on an opponent last season; banned Pittsburgh’s James Harrison for one game after a series of flagrant hits that culminated in a collision with Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy’s helmet; and has ramped up the amount of fines for what the league terms “egregious hits.”
Goodell fined the New England Patriots $250,000 and their coach, Bill Belichick, $500,000 for the Spygate scandal in 2007, when the team was caught illegally videotaping the Jets’ sideline. New England also was stripped of a first-round draft pick.
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