July 29, 2011; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (right) and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (left) talk during the first day of training camp at the New Orleans Saints practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Drops Hammer on Saints for Bounty-gate

The message from the NFL is clear – Don’t mess with Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The NFL dropped the hammer on the Saints after concluding their “bounty-gate” investigation (and waiting for the Peyton Manning ship to land) and they are not messing around.  This directly from the NFL’s official response:

Based on the record, Commissioner Goodell has imposed the following discipline on Saints management:

» The New Orleans Saints are fined $500,000. In addition, because the violation involves a competitive rule, the Saints will forfeit their selections in the second round of the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts.

» Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective April 1.

» Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season.

» Former Saints (and current St. Louis Rams) defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately. Commissioner Goodell will review Coach Williams’ status at the conclusion of the 2012 season and consider whether to reinstate him, and, if so, on what terms. Commissioner Goodell said he will give close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings.

» Saints assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games of the 2012 season.

» The Saints and the individuals disciplined today are expected to participate in efforts led by the league office to develop programs that will instruct players and coaches at all levels of the game on the need for respect for the game and those who participate in it, on principles of fair play, safety and sportsmanship, and to ensure that bounties will not be part of football at any level.

More after the jump.

The NFL wasn’t messing around.  They conducted a thorough investigation and concluded the following:

The findings in the league’s investigation, corroborated by multiple independent sources, conclusively established the following:

1. The Saints defensive team operated a pay-for-performance/bounty program, primarily funded by players, during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons. Under that program, players regularly made cash “donations” to a pool, and were “fined” for mental errors, loafing, penalties, and the like. At least one assistant coach (defensive coordinator Gregg Williams) also occasionally contributed to the pool. There is no evidence that any club money was contributed to the program.

2. Payments were made for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries. All such payments are against league rules. Payments also were made for plays on which opposing players were injured. In addition, specific players were sometimes targeted. The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner. Multiple sources have confirmed that several players pledged funds toward bounties on specific opposing players, with defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offering $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in 2010.

3. Coach Williams acknowledged that he designed and implemented the program with the assistance of certain defensive players. He said that he did so after being told by Saints Head Coach Sean Payton that his assignment was to make the defense “nasty.” Coach Williams described his role as overseeing record keeping, defining payout amounts, deciding on who received payouts, and distributing envelopes with cash to players who “earned” rewards.

4. In each of the 2009-2011 seasons, the Saints were one of the top five teams in the league in roughing the passer penalties. In 2009 and 2011, the Saints were also in the top five teams in unnecessary roughness penalties; in 2010, the Saints ranked sixth in the category. In the January 16, 2010 divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saints defensive players were assessed $15,000 in fines for fouls committed against opposing players. The following week, in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saints defensive players were assessed $30,000 in fines for four separate illegal hits, several of which were directed against quarterback Brett Favre.

For the full litany of the league’s findings, head over here.

I am certain the punishments were more severe because the Saints were warned to knock it off and didn’t.

The bottom line is that the Commish is putting an end to any form of bounty program, express or implied.

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