NFL Announces Punishments For Saints, Those Involved In Bountygate
It was first reported at the beginning of March that the NFL’s security department conducted a lengthy investigation into a “bounty system” maintained by the New Orleans Saints. Under this system, Saints defensive players would be paid by coaches and teammates for hits that injured opposing players. This system was reportedly initiated by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and lasted for three seasons, beginning during the team’s Super Bowl XLIV championship season in 2009.
After further investigation, the league announced on Wednesday the discipline handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to those involved in the “bounty system.” The official statement released by the league can be read here. These are the highlights:
–The Saints organization is fined $500,000 and forfeits their second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. However, owner Tom Benson is not directly disciplined because he had no knowledge of the “bounty system” and was against such a program, giving clear instructions to stop it when he was informed that the league was investigating it.
–Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for one year, effective April 1st.
–Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 season.
–Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season.
–The harshest punishment though is on Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately. He was hired as defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams this offseason, but will need to wait until after this season to be considered for reinstatement by Goodell.
–The 22 to 27 players reportedly involved in the “bounty system” will not be punished until after the NFL Players Association completes its own independent investigation.
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” said Goodell. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities.
“There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness and safety,” Goodell stated.
The statement released by the league also reports findings in the investigation that have been cited and confirmed by multiple sources, according to the league. The investigation uncovered evidence that the Saints had violated a long-standing “bounty” rule. Defensive players were reportedly rewarded for hits such as “knock-outs” or “cart-offs” when opposing players were injured and unable to return to the game. Sometimes, the “bounty” would directly target an opposing player.
According to the investigation, a hefty “bounty” was placed on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Saints linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to any player that knocked Favre out of the game. Additionally, the investigation uncovered evidence that a “bounty” had also been placed on quarterbacks Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton.
In each of the three seasons that the “bounty system” existed, the Saints were in the top five in league in roughing the passer penalties, and in the top six in unnecessary roughness penalties.
Those disciplined by the league apparently knew that the “bounty system” was in place, did nothing to stop it, and lied to NFL investigators on multiple occasions regarding its existence.
Personally, I have read through the statement released by the league and encourage everyone else to do so as well. Though it is lengthy, there is a lot of evidence and other interesting facts uncovered by the league’s investigation that are worth reading.
I find it shocking that the Saints had this “bounty system” in place to the level that they did, and what those involved with it did to try to hide it. It sickens me to think that players would greatly encourage a “bounty system” that pays each other these sums of money to go out there and injure their fellow football players. There is such a thing as integrity and respect for the game and those involved in it, and the Saints completely disregarded that.
I do not think that any of the punishments handed down by Goodell are too harsh, given the nature to which each of them were involved according to the investigation. Those involved continuously lied about the “bounty system” for years, all while carrying it on behind closed doors. Once the NFL Players Association finishes their own investigation, it will be interesting to see what sorts of punishments are given to them by Goodell.
Going forward, I hope that other coaches, players and teams, at any level of football, see that it is wrong to not only establish a “bounty system” but to encourage it. Safety for players is important, as well as integrity and respect for football and those involved in it, and no one should attempt to undermine those values.