The NFL severely punished two senior coaches following the New Orleans Saints' organized program that paid out thousands of dollars for knocking specific players out of games and then allegedly tried to cover it up.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned indefinitely because the team's players were paid bounties for big hits on opponents from 2009-11.
Goodell also banned Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season, and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games.
The NFL said it is the first time the league has suspended a head coach. The explanation for Payton's ban indicates he tried to cover up what the Saints were doing.
According to the NFL, Payton ignored instructions from the league and Saints ownership to make sure bounties weren't being paid. The league also chastised him for choosing to "falsely deny that the program existed," and for attempting to "encourage the false denials by instructing assistants to 'make sure our ducks are in a row."'
Handing down sweeping and serious punishment for a system that paid out thousands of dollars for knocking specific players out of games, Goodell also banned Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season, and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games.
In addition, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away their second-round draft picks this year and next.
Goodell called what the Saints allegedly did "particularly unusual and egregious" and "totally unacceptable."
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities," Goodell said in a statement released by the NFL. "No one is above the game or the rules that govern it."