A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the NFL discovered that the New Orleans Saints were running a “bounty” program during the 2009-2011 seasons, financially rewarding players who inflicted injuries or knocked opponents out of the game.(And yes, their 2009 Super Bowl win will forever have an asterisk after it. At least in my mind.)
Gregg Williams, now the Defensive Coordinator of the Rams, has admitted that he was the brains behind the “bounty” program and has also since apologized. (Because that’s what you do when you’re caught red-handed and know you’re about to get nailed.) Saints Coach Sean Payton has apologized for violations that “happened under [his] watch,” but only after the NFL directly pointed to him for failing to stop and even trying to cover up the horrific program of which he was well aware.
When the news of players and coaches pooling money to reward players who severely injured their opponents (Jonathan Vilma offered $10K to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in 2010), everyone speculated that the NFL was going to come down hard on the people involved in order to set an example.
And, oh did they.
The punishments were announced today and here’s how it shook out:
• Saints coach Sean Payton: Suspended for one year with no pay. ($7.5 million)
• Saints general manager Mickey Loomis: Suspended for the first eight regular-season games.
• Saints fined $500,000.
• Saints lost two second-round draft picks (one in ’12 and one in ’13).
• Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt: Suspended six games and fined $100,000.
And the biggie:
• Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams: Suspended Indefinitely.
Regarding the suspension of Sean Payton, here’s what the Saints’ biggest star, quarterback Drew Brees, had to say: “I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”
If Drew is looking for an explanation, he’s probably not going to get more than this quote from Commissioner Roger Goodell about the hard-hitting (bad pun intended!) penalities:
"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious. 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."
Obviously these severe punishments will be debated heavily for the next couple of days. The NFL has basically taken the New Orleans Saints out of contention for a year, if not more. Unfortunately, that means many more people (specifically QB Drew Brees) will suffer because of the actions of other people. Sadly, that’s how life works sometimes.
The immediate reaction from sports reporters and NFL players was mixed, but of course, there are many who think the punishment was too severe. I disagree.
I can’t defend people who play dirty. The rules exist for a reason. If you break them, especially in an attempt to do severe bodily harm to a player, you deserve everything you get.
In response to his one-year suspension, Coach Sean Payton said today, “I’m not okay.” Sorry Coach, but neither were the players who your guys maliciously and purposely injured... all because you didn't have faith your team could win it on their own.