Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The New Orleans Saints just got hammered today by the NFL for their bounty program. Among the most significant punishments (and here is Joseph Person's story on this for the Wednesday newspaper):
-- Saints coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season and general manager Mickey Loomis is suspended for half the season without pay.
-- The Saints will forfeit second-round draft picks in both 2012 and 2013.
-- St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was the keeper of the bounty program because he was the Saints' defensive coordinator at the time, has been suspended indefinitely.
But buried deep in the NFL’s press release about the punishments was this interesting – and disgusting -- nugget:
“Payments were made for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries. All such payments are against league rules. Payments also were made for plays on which opposing players were injured. In addition, specific players were sometimes targeted. The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner. Multiple sources have confirmed that several players pledged funds toward bounties on specific opposing players, with defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offering $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in 2010.”
Newton played against New Orleans twice in 2011 and wasn’t hurt in either game. But the Saints were trying to hurt him – they had literally put a bounty on him. That what’s what the NFL investigation has concluded (the Saints were penalized for three personal fouls in those 2011 games, however -- read this very interesting blog by The Observer's Joe Person about that and what the Saints said about "remember-me" hits following one of those games).
In general, I’m glad the NFL has taken such a hard line on bounties, which have no place in football. I wish the league had also taken away the Saints’ No.1 draft pick in 2013 (the Saints don’t have a No.1 pick in 2012). Otherwise, suspending Payton for a year seems about right, and I would imagine Williams will never work in the league again.
Saints' player suspensions, incidentally, are still to come (linebacker Jonathan Vilma will likely be hit the very hardest). These punishments were only for the management and the team. As I’ve written before, this “BountyGate” may change the balance of power in the NFC South. And at the very least, the Saints should be a good team to play early in the season, when the yet-to-be-announced player suspensions are in full force.
I suppose Newton could take it as a compliment that the Saints thought enough of him to put a bounty on him -- he was in pretty good company on that four-QB list. Everyone else on that list has won both an NFL MVP award and at least one Super Bowl.
This is disgusting. The Saints are getting hammered for this, and rightfully so. And I imagine the Panthers will have a little extra desire to win -- and to keep Newton's jersey clean -- the next time these two teams meet.