The NFL has released its official announcement regarding the penalties imposed as a result of the Saints’ three-year system of paying defensive players for, among other things, trying to injure opposing players.
The league imposed significant penalties against coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and G.M. Mickey Loomis, and for good reason. Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to be sure this never happens again.
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Goodell said in the league-issued release. “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.”
“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Goodell added. “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. . . .
“Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety. Programs of this kind have no place in our game and we are determined that bounties will no longer be a part of the NFL.”
To achieve this goal, Goodell has suspended coach Sean Payton for a full year, effective April 1. Former Saints defensive coordinator (and, for now, Rams defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely; his status will be reviewed after the 2012 season. Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis has been suspended eight games, and Saints assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt has been suspended six games.
In comparison, the Saints organization got off light. Goodell fined the team only $500,000 and stripped a second-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013.
Still, being denied the ability to rely on the man who led the team to a Super Bowl win three seasons ago and who has helped the Saints become competitive on a consistent basis will make it very difficult for the Saints to become the first team to ever qualify for a Super Bowl to be played in a team’s home stadium. Next February, Super Bowl XLVII will be played in the Superdome.