Lengthy and unprecedented suspensions appear to be coming for those involved in the Saints’ practice of paying bounties to players who injured opponents.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports that the NFL is considering long suspensions for head coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and players who were involved in bounties.
How long? Maske cited an unnamed source who said suspensions could be half a season or longer. One person familiar with the NFL’s thinking on the matter mentioned the decision in 1963 by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to suspend Packers running back Paul Hornung and Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras for an entire season for gambling.
Williams, who ran the bounty program and who’s now the defensive coordinator of the Rams, would seem to be the person who would get the longest suspension. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher should probably be in the process of coming up with a Plan B at the defensive coordinator position on his coaching staff because Williams, the Plan A, may be unavailable for some or all of the season.
But Payton and Loomis appear to be facing discipline as well, and players involved could also be suspended. The NFL said 22 to 27 players on the Saints were involved, but the league hasn’t said who those players are. We don’t know how many are still in the league, how many are still with the Saints and whether some players were ringleaders of the bounty program and will face more significant than others.
What is clear is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is preparing to come down hard. After the Spygate scandal, Goodell stripped the Patriots of a first-round pick, fined Bill Belichick $500,000 and fined the Patriots $250,000. All indications are that the sanctions for the Saints will be significantly more severe.