Bounty program results in one year suspension for Saints coach
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Those involved in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program received stiffer discipline than most imagined -- and player discipline is still to come.
The NFL on Wednesday announced it has suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for one year and general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games for failing to stop the bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the St. Louis Rams and was suspended indefinitely.
The Saints ran the program from 2009 to 2011. Perhaps the most memorable game in that period was New Orleans' overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game in January 2010. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre took several big hits from Saints defenders in that defeat.
Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down $500,000 fines for Loomis and the Saints, who also were docked second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
Assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games and fined $100,000. In a statement, the NFL said the suspensions for Payton, Loomis and Vitt are without pay. Payton's suspension will be effective April 1.
Williams will meet with Goodell after the upcoming season to determine if and when his suspension will be lifted.
The next question is the severity of penalties that will be handed down for players who participated in the program. That could include current Vikings nose tackle Remi Ayodele, who laid one of several hits on Favre in the NFC championship game that helped trigger the investigation. The NFL and NFL Players' Association are still reviewing the case.
The Vikings have re-signed defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans in recent weeks and there is a real possibility they did so, especially with Evans, because they were anticipating a suspension for Ayodele.
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," Goodell said in a statement. "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. 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."
The NFL said that 22 to 27 players on the Saints defense stood to get money for knocking certain opponents out of games. This list included Favre and former Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner. Payments double or tripled in the postseason, with regular-season "knockouts" carrying a price tag of $1,500 and getting a player carted off earning $1,000.
The Associated Press contributed