NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves open possibility of changing fines or loss of draft pick next year
Roger Goodell sent a message to every coach and player in the NFL: safety first. The league commissioner stuck with his punishments for New Orleans' pay-for-pain bounties on Monday, rejecting Saints coach Sean Payton's appeal of a season-long suspension.
MORE: NFL Statement on Appeal Decision
An NFL investigation found that, under Payton's watch, Gregg Williams ran a program offering cash payouts for hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games or hurt them so badly they needed help getting to the sideline.
Next on Goodell's agenda: discipline for players involved in the bounty program that began in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Given recent history, at least some of those penalties are likely to be tough, too.
In addition to upholding Payton's suspension, which begins next Monday and runs through the Super Bowl in February 2013, by coincidence, in New Orleans, Goodell also affirmed suspensions of eight games for Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and six games for assistant head coach Joe Vitt. He also kept in place a $500,000 fine for the franchise and the loss of draft picks this year and
Loomis, who along with the team declined comment Monday, and Vitt begin their suspensions after the preseason ends.
Suspensions for New Orleans players who participated in the bounty pool could be coming within days.
Goodell set a precedent last season when he made Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sit out for two games after stomping on an opponent, and Steelers linebacker James Harrison one game for a brutal tackle that gave Browns quarterback Colt McCoy a concussion.
The NFL has said as many as 27 players also could be sanctioned in the scandal. That might include former Saints defensive regulars who have signed elsewhere.
Goodell showed a bit of leniency Monday, saying in a statement if Payton, Loomis and Vitt "embrace the opportunity and participate in a constructive way,'' he would consider reducing the financial penalties on them. None of them has been fined, but each will lose significant amounts while not being paid their salaries during the suspensions. Payton, who twice apologized for his role in the bounties, could lose more than $6 million.
Goodell added he would consider modifying the forfeiture of the team's 2013 second-round draft choice, perhaps to a lower round. But New Orleans still will receive a draft penalty next year and will lose this year's second-round pick.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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