Saints' Sean Payton suspended for 2012 NFL season over player bounties

The NFL has ruled that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton must sit out all of next season. Gregg Williams, his former defensive coordinator and bounty instigator, is suspended indefinitely.

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    This Dec. 26, 2011 file photo shows New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans. The NFL has suspended Payton for the 2012 season, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is banned from the league indefinitely because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players.
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The National Football League announced Wednesday that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the upcoming season without pay for condoning player bounties instituted by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, according to NFL.com.

The league also announced that Williams, recently hired as the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator, has been suspended indefinitely without pay. The Sporting News reported that Williams may have begun bounty programs on other franchises where he coached. Also, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vick has been suspended for the first six games of 2012.

The bounty program, which first came to light last month and goes back two seasons, paid Saints defensive players thousands of dollars for injuring opposing players and causing them to leave games, according to SI.com.

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ESPN.com reports that in addition to the coaches penalties, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games next year and fined $500,000. The Saints franchise has been fined $500,000 and will give up second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013.

Reaction to the Payton suspension has been swift. Saints quarterback Drew Brees can't believe the punishment his head coach received.

"I am speechless," Brees tweeted. "Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment," USATODAY.com reports.

NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, who was suspended for one year in 1963 for gambling on pro football by then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, agrees with the league's stance.

"You can't have anything like this in the league," Hornung told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "The game is rough enough where you don't have to start giving out incentives to take somebody out of the game, for heaven's sake."

There's still the question of how the NFL will handle Saints players involved in the bounty program. According to NFL.com, the NFL Players Association is conducting its own investigation into the New Orleans defensive bounties. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will then take their recommendations into consideration when deciding on player discipline.

Also, the Los Angeles Times reports that the commissioner has asked all NFL teams to confirm there are no other bounty programs in existence and, if there are, they are terminated immediately.

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