New Or­leans oh boy!: Bounty fall­out costs Pay­ton en­tire year

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY HOWARD FEN­DRICH

Met­ing out un­prece­dented pun­ish­ment for a crush-for-cash bounty sys­tem that tar­geted key op­pos­ing play­ers, the NFL sus­pended New Or­leans Saints coach Sean Pay­ton with­out pay for next sea­son and in­def­i­nitely banned the team’s for­mer de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Gregg Wil­liams.

Pay­ton, the first head coach sus­pended by the league for any rea­son, is ac­cused of try­ing to cover up a sys­tem of ex­tra cash pay­outs that NFL com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell on Wed­nes­day called “par­tic­u­larly un­usual and egre­gious” and “to­tally un­ac­cept­able.”

Send­ing a mes­sage by tak­ing a harsh stand, Good­ell also banned Saints gen­eral man­ager Mickey Loomis for the first eight reg­u­lar-sea­son games next sea­son — be­lieved to be the first time a GM was sus­pended by the NFL — and as­sis­tant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games.

In ad­di­tion, Good­ell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away their sec­on­dround draft picks this year and next.

“We are all ac­count­able and re­spon­si­ble for player health and safety and the in­tegrity of the game. We will not tol­er­ate con­duct or a cul­ture that un­der­mines those pri­or­i­ties,” said Good­ell, whose league faces more than 20 con­cus­sion-re­lated law­suits brought by hun­dreds of for­mer play­ers. “No one is above the game or the rules that gov­ern it.”

Ac­cord­ing to the league, Pay­ton ig­nored in­struc­tions from the NFL and Saints own­er­ship to make sure boun­ties weren’t be­ing paid. The league also chas­tised him for choos­ing to “falsely deny that the pro­gram ex­isted,” and for try­ing to “en­cour­age the false de­nials by in­struct­ing as­sis­tants to ‘make sure our ducks are in a row.’ ”

All in all, Good­ell’s rul­ing is a real blow to the Saints, a fran­chise that Pay­ton and quar­ter­back Drew Brees re­vived and led to the 2010 Su­per Bowl ti­tle af­ter decades of such fu­til­ity that fans wore pa­per bags over their heads at home games.

Brees re­acted quickly to the news on Twit­ter, writ­ing: “I am speech­less. Sean Pay­ton is a great man, coach, and men­tor. . . . I need to hear an ex­pla­na­tion for this pun­ish­ment.”

The Saints now must de­cide who will coach the team in Pay­ton’s place — his sus­pen­sion takes ef­fect April 1 — and who will make ros­ter moves while Loomis is out. There was no im­me­di­ate word from the Saints, but two can­di­dates to take over coach­ing du­ties are de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Steve Spagnuolo and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Pete Carmichael Jr. Spagnuolo has NFL head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence; Carmichael does not, but has been with the club since 2006.

When the NFL first made its in­ves­ti­ga­tion public March 2, Wil­liams ad­mit­ted to — and apol­o­gized for — run­ning the pro­gram while in charge of the Saints’ de­fense. He was hired in Jan­uary by the St. Louis Rams; coach Jeff Fisher said Wed­nes­day he’ll prob­a­bly use a com­mit­tee of coaches to re­place Wil­liams in 2012.

Good­ell will re­view Wil­liams’ sta­tus af­ter the up­com­ing sea­son and de­cide whether he can re­turn.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Or­leans Saints coach Sean Pay­ton (left) and for­mer de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gregg Wil­liams, now with the St. Louis Rams, re­ceived sus­pen­sions Wed­nes­day as pun­ish­ment for a bounty sys­tem that tar­geted op­pos­ing play­ers.

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