The New Orleans Saints have finally learned their fate for running a bounty program during the 2009-11 seasons that paid players who knocked the competition out of games by injuring them.
Their punishment is an extremely harsh one.
According to ESPN, the league office decided to suspend head coach Sean Payton for an entire year, suspend GM Mickey Loomis for eight games, suspend assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games and fine him $100,000, ban then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from the league indefinitely, and forced the organization to forfeit their second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 and pay $500,000 in fines.
All of those suspensions are without pay.
According to Jay Glazer, coach Payton is shocked, and rightfully so, at these brash and ill-conceived sanctions.
“I did talk to him and he’s stunned to say the least,” Glazer said. “I think the entire team thought maybe there’d be a four-game suspension, but not a year. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here.”
It’s incredulous that this “bounty” program is receiving this severe of a reaction from commissioner Roger Goodell.
He tried to defend his actions in a press release.
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," Goodell said in a statement announcing the punishments. "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.
Football is a violent game by nature. Even if they won’t come out and say it, defensive players are often trying to knock the competition out of the game to make it easier for their team to secure a win.
Successful teams reward their players with new contracts for more money and longer years. By doing anything necessary to help their team win, even if it’s by injuring a quarterback or receiver, these men are looking out for themselves, their families and their futures.
They certainly don’t need the pocket change the “bounty” system provided, but rather the resulting victory that can come much easier by removing a starting QB from the field.
It’s understandable that Goodell and his office are trying to limit injuries and whatnot from this brutal game, but to suspend a number of coaches and front office personnel for what happens on the field of play is inane.
The team should have been sternly warned and the penalties imposed should have been no harsher than what Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots received for the Spygate incident or what someone like Ndamukong Suh got for stomping a player out on national television.
At this rate, it seems Goodell will start banning players from the league who hit too hard and knock an opponent out of the game.
This isn’t a good direction, and the suspensions very well may lead down a slippery slope.