The NFL announced Wednesday that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be suspended for one season without pay for his involvement in the team's bounty program. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
The team has also been fined $500,000 and will have to give up its second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL Drafts.
The league said in a news release that the involvement of individual players in the program is still being reviewed, and that any discipline will be announced at a future time.
In addition, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season.
Payton's suspension is without pay. It will begin April 1 and last for the entire 2012 season. Loomis' suspension will be for the first eight games of the 2012 season.
Williams, who was hired to be the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator earlier this year, will have his status reviewed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the 2012 regular season has ended, according to the release. Goodell will then decide if Williams should be reinstated.
Sources close to Williams told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that they were shocked by the news. The sources said they had been expecting a shorter suspension, something like a month or six games, and had been hoping for something less than half a season.
The NFL revealed March 2 the findings of a lengthy investigation into a Saints "bounty" program that gave thousands of dollars in payoffs to players for hits that knocked opponents out of games. The program, administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, reached its height in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The program ran in violation of league rules, and the investigation showed that Saints players received $1,500 for a "knockout" hit and $1,000 for a "cart-off" hit, with payouts doubling or tripling during the team's three playoff appearances.
The NFL Players Association formally requested that the league not punish the 22 to 27 players it cited in the scandal until the union had completed its independent investigation, which is underway, an NFLPA source told NFL.com's Steve Wyche.
The league initially did not respond to the union's request. The NFL told the NFLPA last Thursday, according to SI.com, that it was free to question any current or former Saints officials about the matter, but that it would not delay announcing its own decisions.
"We have given your requests careful consideration, and have concluded that there is no basis for delaying the imposition of any discipline in this matter, and particularly not as it may apply to a club or any non-player employee of a club," NFL attorney Jeff Pash wrote in the letter to union general counsel Richard Berthelsen on Wednesday. "Any disciplinary action affecting any player would be imposed only in a manner consistent with our Collective Bargaining Agreement. As you know, the sole authority to investigate and impose discipline in this matter rests with the Commissioner."
Williams, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, has admitted to and apologized for running the program.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis also were implicated in the scandal, and they released a statement March 6 in which they took full responsibility for the violations.
"We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility. This has brought undue hardship on (owner Tom) Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.
"These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans."