NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program
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 league also is suspending Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for the 2012 season's first eight regular-season games, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six regular-season games, the NFL said in a news release.
In addition, the Saints will be fined $500,000 and forfeit their second-round selections in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, the league said.
The NFL reported 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.
The league said the program was administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, with 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 general manager 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 an earlier statement.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a letter to fans, saying he was never aware of the infamous bounty program that his team admitted to taking part in.
"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."