Bountygate – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down arguably the most severe punishment in the league’s history, when he lowered the boom on the franchise for the alleged pay-to-injure scheme in which players were given cash for knocking opposing players out of games.
Management received severe punishments for their alleged roles in running the bounties. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for an entire season, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended without pay for the first eight regular season games. The franchise was fined $500,000 and forfeited second-round picks for 2012 and 2013.
All of that good karma bestowed on Saints with their Super Bowl win and what it meant to a city coming back from the brink went right out the window once allegations surfaced that Saints players were paying cash rewards to inflict injuries on opponents. The brutal thrashings Brett Farve and Kurt Warner took by the Saints defense during the Super Bowl run were exhibit A and B of an alleged bounty for football fans. With the team’s reputation tarnished, the loveable Saints weren’t so loveable anymore.
In April, things got worse. Secret audio of Gregg Williams surfaced. "Kill the head and the body will die," Williams repeatedly told his players before the Saints NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the 49ers. Williams made specific references to injure numerous players such as Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in the audio.
Even current and former players were implicated in the scandal. Jonathan Vilma got a season-long suspension, Will Smith got a four-game suspension, Anthony Hargrove received eight games and Scott Fujita got three games. After a long, drawn out process in which former commissioner Paul Tagliabue finally vacated the players’ suspensions, vindicating the players somewhat, he still affirmed the original findings by Goodell.
If the bounty has one lasting effect, it could be Sean Payton’s future with the Saints. Goodell voided Payton's contract and kicked it back to the Saints because of some unusual language. While Goodell has said the Saints and Payton can renegotiate a contract, the team and Payton still have yet to agree to a new deal, and the longer the impasse goes on it conjures up worries that the head coach that guided the Saints to the Super Bowl could be wooed away from New Orleans.
- Handwerger: Unsatisfactory ending to bounty case
- Handwerger: Lying, arrogance brought stiffer penalties than the bounty program
- Saints Vilma, Smith happy suspensions vacated but believe reputations have been harmed
- Goodell: New deal for Payton up to Saints and head coach
- Payton's contract still in question
- Transcript of Gregg Williams' speech before 49ers game