Sean Payton, Gregg Williams suspended as NFL punishes Saints for bounty program

March 21, 2012

The NFL came down hard on the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday for their pay-for-pain bounty system. Football Insider’s Mark Maske has a comprehensive breakdown of the Saints punishment :

The NFL suspended New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams Wednesday for their roles in a bounty system that provided the team’s players payments for hits that injured opponents.

Williams was suspended indefinitely. Payton was suspended for one year, and Loomis was suspended for eight games, a person with knowledge of the measures said.

The Saints were fined $500,000 and lose two second-round draft choices, one in this year’s draft and one in 2013, the person with knowledge of the punishments said.

[...]

The penalties are among the harshest in the sport’s history. In the 1960s, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras for one year each for gambling.

Will harsh punishment like this do enough to curb this behavior in the NFL? Jason Reid said in a recent column that there is a league-wide problem with a warped culture:

It’s a given that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must severely punish longtime defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for operating a bounty system. Goodell also should hammer anyone under his authority who participated, or knowingly looked the other way, while Williams directed his pay-for-pain program with the New Orleans Saints after he refined it in Washington.

That’s the easy part. Changing the NFL’s warped culture, in which Williams’s out-of-bounds conduct was accepted, and even admired, is Goodell’s bigger challenge.

Goodell has stressed the need for improved player safety. He has advocated for rules changes to protect players and sternly enforced disciplinary action for contact no longer permitted.

But when a high-profile defensive coach has reportedly violated rules by paying cash bonuses for “knock-out hits” and “kill shots,” tackles that sent players to the sideline during games, the message clearly isn’t reaching everyone.

Gregg Williams, who orchestrated the program, received the most severe punishment: an indefinite suspension. Post columnist Mike Wise looked at the locker room culture when Williams was defensive coordinator for the Redskins:

In Washington they were known as “kill shots,” and though neither Phillip Daniels nor Andre Carter ended Peyton Manning’s day, someone had to earn a bonus when Manning was essentially folded in half during a game in Indianapolis in 2006. The play is almost disturbing to watch.

Carter hammers Manning from the left side while Daniels, who admitted to being part of a bounty program by telephone to The Post on Friday night, gets him high — right in Manning’s neck. Many Colts fans fear Manning’s neck was never the same after that play.Was it clearly dirty? Neither player was fined or suspended, so that’s up for debate. But you wonder if no money had been on the line, does Manning withstand the same type of hit?

Maybe. The hit might have been the way it was because these were Williams’s players, and they wanted to please him in the worst way, because they knew he was a little crazier than most defensive coordinators, a foul-mouthed, hand grenade in a burgundy-and-gold polo shirt.

He’d go to edges no one wanted to go. And then he’d go further.

More on the bounty investigation:

Saints owner Tom Benson, coach Sean Payton meet with NFL

Redskins offered bounties

Severe penalties expected for Williams, Saints

Payton, Loomis accept responsibility

Jason Reid: Bounties flourished in warped football culture

Mike Wise: Another player sheds light on ‘an ugly tradition’

Redskins offered bounties for big hits under Williams

Joe Gibbs: “I would never ask a player to hurt another player’

Mike Wise: Gregg Williams’s true nature exposed

How widespread are bounties in the NFL?

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