The National Football League has suspended New Orleans Saints' head coach Sean Payton for one year and indefinitely suspended former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for running a bounty program that paid players to injure opponents.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell notified the Saints Wednesday of the discipline that will be imposed on team management for violations of the NFL's long-standing "bounty" rule that endangered player safety over a three-year period.
The NFL said it is the first time the league has suspended a head coach.
Discipline for individual players involved in the Saints' prohibited program is still under investigation and will be addressed by Goodell later, he said.
The program included "bounty" payments for "knock-outs" and "cart-offs," plays on which an opposing player was forced to leave the game. The bounties even targeted specific players by name.
The NFL investigated the existence of an active bounty program on the Saints during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons in violation of league rules, a deliberate effort to conceal the program's existence from league investigators, and a clear determination to maintain the program despite express direction from Saints ownership that it stop as well as ongoing inquiries from the league office.
"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."
"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious," Goodell continued. "When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game."
by RTT Staff Writer
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