The NFL dropped the hammer on the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, suspending head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season and indefinitely suspending former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the role the two of them played in the team's bounty system.
According to ESPN.com, the league has also banned Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight games of the 2012 season. The Saints have been fined $500,000 and have been stripped of two second-round draft picks.
On Wednesday evening, the Saints issued a statement in response to the league's penalties. Here it is, courtesy of Pro Football Talk:
Today, Commissioner Goodell apprised us of the severe penalties facing our club, as proposed by the NFL.
We recognize our fans’ concerns and we regret the uncertainty this episode has created for them. We are humbled by the support our organization has received from our fans today in the wake of this announcement, and we ask them to continue to stand with us, as they have done in the past, when both our team and our city have overcome greater adversities.
To our fans, the NFL and the rest of our league, we offer our sincere apology and take full responsibility for these serious violations. It has always been the goal of the New Orleans Saints to create a model franchise and to impact our league in a positive manner. There is no place for bounties in our league and we reiterate our pledge that this will never happen again.
I’d like to again apologize wholeheartedly to the NFL, Coach Fisher, the entire Rams organization and all football fans for my actions. Furthermore, I apologize to the players of the NFL for my involvement as it is not a true reflection of my values as a father or coach, nor is it reflective of the great respect I have for this game and its core principle of sportsmanship. I accept full responsibility for my actions.
I highly value the 23 years that I’ve spent in the NFL. I will continue to cooperate fully with the league and its investigation and I will focus my energies on serving as an advocate for both player safety and sportsmanship. I will do everything possible to re-earn the respect of my colleagues, the NFL and its players in hopes of returning to coaching in the future.
Both statements can be summed up in two words: mea culpa.
It's not a surprise that Williams chose to be decidedly apologetic with his statement, as he had already gone on record saying that the bounty program was a "terrible mistake." He reiterated that point in his statement, as well as the fact that he takes full responsibility for what took place under his watch.
The Saints' statement could have been a lot worse. Instead of being apologetic, the Saints could have chosen to be defiant. Given the fact that the penalties handed down to the them on Wednesday are totally unprecedented, the Saints could have announced their intent to fight back.
Evidently, the Saints aren't going to do that. They're going to take their punishment and move on.
Because of that, the message the league sent to the Saints and the rest of the NFL on Wednesday will stick.