Roger Goodell, NFL Send Strong Message with Stiff Bounty Punishments

Aaron NaglerNFL National Lead WriterMarch 21, 2012

Goodell has brought the hammer down on the Saints
Goodell has brought the hammer down on the SaintsPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

The NFL announced the punishment for the New Orleans Saints this afternoon after a lengthy investigation into the team's bounty program that was administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

The full list of punishments, as provided by the NFL:

  • The Saints are fined $500,000. In addition, because the violation involves a competitive rule, the Saints will forfeit their selections in the second round of the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts.
  • Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective April 1.
  • Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season.
  • Former Saints (and current St. Louis Rams) defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately. Commissioner Goodell will review Coach Williams’ status at the conclusion of the 2012 season and consider whether to reinstate him, and, if so, on what terms. Commissioner Goodell said he will give close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings.
  • Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games of the 2012 season.
  • The Saints and the individuals disciplined today are expected to participate in efforts led by the league office to develop programs that will instruct players and coaches at all levels of the game on the need for respect for the game and those who participate in it, on principles of fair play, safety and sportsmanship, and to ensure that bounties will not be part of football at any level.

The collective punishment should really come as no surprise. As we discussed last week, the Saints were caught doing something that, by the admission of many NFL players, goes on all around the league. The NFL is using this moment to try to put an end to the practice.

Clearly, the big difference here is that the Saints got caught—and at first denied it. Back in 2010, the league asked Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis about it, and both swore blind they knew nothing about it.

Well, as usual, the cover-up was worse than the crime. Fast-forward to 2011. The league, after receiving new evidence that the Saints were administering a bounty program and that it was not only known about but condoned by Payton, decided to come down hard to set a precedent and make an example of the Saints organization.

Some might say the punishments are too severe—I couldn’t disagree more. The Saints continued to administer their bounty program after they knew the NFL was on to them. Their arrogance is only superseded by their stupidity in this regard.

Roger Goodell made sure the public knows where he and the league stand on the matter. You can bet owners and general managers across the league are addressing their employees today about how this kind of thing can never happen in their organizations.

What remains to be determined are the punishments for players such as Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The league’s delay on that punishment is no doubt to figure out how to punish the players without the NFLPA fighting it.