The NFL officially punished the New Orleans Saints this past Wednesday for the so called “Bounty Program”. The NFL concluded its investigation that proved former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams guilty of administering an illegal bounty program, which started in 2009.
The Saints received a plethora of penalties for their actions. The Saints organization itself was fined $500,000, and lost their second-round draft pick for the next two years. Head Coach Sean Payton will begin his year-long suspension on April 1, and will receive no pay. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games without pay, and the main man, Williams, was suspended indefinitely. Lastly, Assistant Coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games, and fined $100,000.
The program consisted of Williams giving bonuses or rewards to players for vicious hits and making key plays. Players would be rewarded for intentionally injuring key players on opposing teams or for plays such as interceptions or fumbles. Some of the players who were targeted in the Saints program were Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers.
However, it wasn’t only Williams who was dishing out these payments to hurt opposing players. It was also defensive captain Jonathan Vilma, who offered $10,000 to anyone who took Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in 2010. As a matter of fact, it was successful. Favre took multiple brutal shots from all sides, and was taken out for part of the game. The Saints went on to win that game 31-28, and shortly after won the Super Bowl.
In a post-game interview, Favre said “I’ve felt better, it was a physical game. A lot of hits. You win that and you sure feel a lot better.”
Favre surely felt the presence of the bounty program as he threw a late interception on his injured leg that would cost the Vikings a trip to the Super Bowl.
It is clear Commissioner Rodger Goodell is sending a message. This is one of the harshest penalties the NFL has ever seen. No head coach or general manager has ever been suspended in the history of the NFL. According to recent statements and tweets of current and former NFL players, it seems that many teams have unofficial bounty programs funded by money that the players themselves pool. The difference with the Saints is that the bounty program was run by the coaching staff, which is exactly why Goodell’s punishment was so strict.
Goodell is trying to keep the image of the NFL as a league that cares about the health of its players. Although football is an extremely violent sport, Goodell wants to protect the health and safety, short-term and long-term for all players. He is making a statement to teams league-wide that he will not tolerate anything that intentionally harms players.
The penalties thrown on the New Orleans Saints by Commissioner Rodger Goodell were necessary. Although harsh to many, it was a vivid announcement to all NFL teams that programs like these will not be tolerated as long as he is the Commissioner.