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Sean Payton Suspended, Saints Fined for Bounty Program

12:55 PM, Mar 21, 2012   |    comments
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By Robert Klembo, USA Today

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for one year and the team will lose its second round pick in 2012 and '13 and pay $500,000 as a result of the NFL's bounty investigation, the league announced Wednesday.

Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who orchestrated the program, has been suspended from the NFL indefinitely. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis faces an eight-game suspension and a $500,000 fine.

READ:  The NFL's press release

The NFL revealed in early March an investigation which found more than 20 defensive players for the Saints participated in a 'bounty' system from 2009 to '11 which rewarded individuals with cash for harming opposing players.

"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday. "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."

The league found that the cash pool reached $50,000 or more during the 2009 playoffs, and players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off" with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs. Money was provided primarily by players.

All such payments violate league rules for non-contract bonuses.

Williams administered the program, and the NFL says Payton was not a direct participant, yet was aware of the allegations and "failed to stop the bounty program." Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt is also suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season.

"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious," Goodell continued. "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."

CAPTIONBy Derick E. Hingle, US Presswire
Payton and Loomis took "full responsibility" for the violations in a joint statement issued days after the findings, and later met with Goodell in New York to discuss the issue.

The pair apologized for the "unique hardship" on team owner Tom Benson, recognized the severity of the violations, and promised that they "will never happen again."

Williams, who left the Saints this offseason to become defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, apologized for his program, which he reportedly also implemented in several other NFL cities. Commissioner Goodell will review Williams' status at the conclusion of the 2012 season and consider whether to reinstate him.

"I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again," Williams said.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma became the player face of the program following an SI.com report describing his $10,000 offer to any player who could knock Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. The league did not hand down punishment for any players involved on Wednesday, but ESPN reports that the issue is still under review.

USA Today

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