Baltimore Ravens

NFL drops severe penalty on New Orleans Saints

The NFL has dropped the hammer on the New Orleans Saints. And believe me, it was a heavy hammer.

The league on Wednesday afternoon announced the punishment for the Saints in their bounty scandal. (And moments later, the New York Jets announced that they had traded for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, a sequence of events that surely put Twitter's servers to the test.) With its ruling on the Saints, the NFL made it clear that bounty systems must go the way of leather helmets.

According to multiple reports, Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for one year. General manager Mickey Loomis was handed an eight-game ban and a $500,000 fine. Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games and fined $100,000 for his role in the scandal. The Saints organization was also fined $500,000 and stripped of its second-round draft picks for 2012 and 2013.

Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who put the bounty system in place in New Orleans (and reportedly during his previous coaching gigs) and who was recently hired by theSt. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely.

Earlier this month, the NFL released details of an investigation into the Saints, who implemented a bounty program that gave thousands of dollars of rewards to players who injured opposing players or knocked them out of games. The NFL said that between 22 and 27 Saints defenders participated in the program. Loomis and Payton knew of the bounties, but did nothing to shut them down.

"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement announcing the punishments. "We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.

"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious. When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game."

And with this heavy punishment, Goodell, who is attempting to be a champion for player safety, hopes to make sure it will never happen again -- at least under the watch of team management.