Roger Goodell laid down the law once again. The NFL commissioner issued a harsh one-year suspension to New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for his role in the team's bounty system that rewarded defensive players for laying injurious hits on opposing players.
The system's creator, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams who is now with the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely by the league. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt will serve a six-game suspension.
All suspensions are without pay. Payton won't earn any of his $7.5 million salary during the ban, which begins April 1.
It's the most severe sanction for a head coach in the history of the NFL.
Payton was reportedly "stunned" by the news. "No, I'm not OK," he told Fox Sports' Jay Glazer on Wednesday afternoon.
The franchise will also have to pay a $500,00 fine and will relinquish its second-round picks in 2012 and 2013.
"Beyond the clear and continuing violations of league rules, and lying to investigators, the bounty program is squarely contrary to the league's most important initiatives — enhancing player health and safety and protecting the integrity of the game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Let me be clear. 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."
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Goodell didn't need to add the "let me be clear" line. His discipline leaves little room for doubt.
It was believed that Payton would receive a small suspension for his role in the so-called Bountygate. According to the league investigation, he wasn't accused of handing out payments or playing an active role in the bounties, but his lack of action served as a tacit endorsement nonetheless. Goodell was right to hand down the Draconian punishment. The league can't afford to be hypocritical at such a pivotal time in the move to make the game safer for players. Payton is in charge and allowed the bounty system to happen. He can't expect to get credit for the team's success and not be responsible for its failures.
Goodell couldn't resist mentioning how he was "lied to" by the Saints, an unnecessary addition to his statement that makes his reasonable punishment seem spiteful. Personal emotions should play no role in a decision like this. By giving off the perception that they do, Goodell opens himself to criticism. He did the same thing with Michael Vick.
A league investigation found that bounties were placed on four quarterbacks -- Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton.
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