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New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton suspended for bounty scandal

March 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has been suspended without pay for the 2012 season, as the NFL hands down a severe punishment for the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has also been banned from the league indefinitely. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he will review Williams' status after the upcoming season and consider whether he can return to the league.

"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."

An NFL investigation found that the Saints' bounty program gave thousands of dollars to players for hits that knocked specific opponents out of games. All payouts for specific performances in a game, including interceptions or causing fumbles, are against NFL rules.

According to the NFL, the amounts reached their height in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.

The league said between 22 and 27 Saints defensive players were involved in the program. Williams, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, has admitted to and apologized for running the program.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was also suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of 2012, and assistant coach Joe Vitt was ordered to sit out the first six games.

In addition, the team was fined $500,000 and will have to forfeitsecond-round draft picks this year and in 2013.

Punishment for any Saints players involved will be determined later because the league is still reviewing the case with the NFL Players Association.

ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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