March 21, 2012

League Staggers Franchise With Suspensions

"Clearly, we were lied to."

That statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell summarizes his punishments handed down today in wake of the Saints' three-year bounty scandal.

The Saints headline worldwide, mainstream news because of the punishments, which are as follows:
  • Head coach Sean Payton suspended for one year, effective April 1, 2012.
  • General Manager Mickey Loomis suspended eight games, effective at the start of the 2012 season.
  • Assistant head coach and Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt, suspended six games.
  • The Saints franchise is fined $500,000 and loses second round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
  • Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely from the league.

The league delivered a punch to the franchise earlier this offseason, withholding a salary cap bonus from the team for minor cap violations in 2010.  In comparison, the suspensions to Loomis, Payton and Vitt are a right hook to the head.

Next up is the league's knockout punch, when many important defensive players will be suspended in the Bounty scandal.

The commissioner did not announce any player suspensions today, which are expected to be numerous and lengthy, highlighted by MLB Jonathan Vilma.  Those suspensions may or may not be subject to the NFL Players Union's oversight and appeals process.

The Saints are expected to appeal Goodell's punishments, but the appealing body is the league itself.

The sum result of the scandal has virtually snuffed out any chances of the Saints' playing in the New Orleans-hosted Super Bowl in February 2013.

In his statement to the press today, Goodell said,
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. 
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. Programs of this kind have no place in our game and we are determined that bounties will no longer be a part of the NFL.
The NFL has acted to make an example of the Saints, but also to prove to any future court regarding the league's liability for player injuries that it takes safety seriously.

But the severity of the suspensions, especially Loomis' punishment, can be attributed to the lies, organized disinformation and inaction by Loomis.  Similar to the vicodin scandal regarding Saints security head Geoffrey Santini, the Saints franchise will suffer a worse fate because of Loomis' coverup.  Federal charges from the vicodin-stealing scandal and coverup could surface at any time.

Payton's suspension without pay will cost him roughly $7.5 million personally, the scheduled pay from his 2011 new contract.

The NFL's statement on today's punishments:
Commissioner Roger Goodell notified the New Orleans Saints today 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.
Discipline for individual players involved in the Saints' prohibited program continues to be under review with the NFL Players Association and will be addressed by Commissioner Goodell at a later date. The program included "bounty" payments for "knock-outs" and "cart-offs," plays on which an opposing player was forced to leave the game. At times, the bounties even targeted specific players by name.
The NFL's extensive investigation established 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. 
The Saints' statement:
Today, Commissioner Goodell apprised us of the severe penalties facing our club, as proposed by the NFL. 
We recognize our fans’ concerns and we regret the uncertainty this episode has created for them. We are humbled by the support our organization has received from our fans today in the wake of this announcement, and we ask them to continue to stand with us, as they have done in the past, when both our team and our city have overcome greater adversities.
To our fans, the NFL and the rest of our league, we offer our sincere apology and take full responsibility for these serious violations.

It has always been the goal of the New Orleans Saints to create a model franchise and to impact our league in a positive manner.

There is no place for bounties in our league and we reiterate our pledge that this will never happen again.

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