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Suspensions Appear Likely for New Orleans Saints Bounty Program

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Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now in the same role with the St. Louis Rams, could face severe punishment for his role in running a bounty program.
Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now in the same role with the St. Louis Rams, could face severe punishment for his role in running a bounty program.

The NFL recently announced the results of a two year investigation into the New Orleans Saints' practice of using bounty payments for defensive players who injure opponents. Players were, reportedly, paid for "kill shots," with defenders being paid for hits that resulted in players leaving the game, and an even higher amount if a player was carted off the field.

Now, it appears the NFL is preparing to suspend anyone involved in the program.

Related: New Orleans Saints Bounty Program

According to a Washington Post article, the NFL is "considering severe, sweeping disciplinary measures in the New Orleans Saints' bounty case that could include lengthy suspensions of Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and player leaders of the scheme."

The report continues to state that the penalties currently under consideration are "unprecedented," and include suspensions of half a season or more. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is said to be using the 1963 gambling suspensions of Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras as a reference point. Both players were suspended for the entire season.

The other precedent thought to be under consideration is the 2007 "Spygate" case involving the New England Patriots. In that case, the Patriots were found to be video taping the New York Jets defensive coaches during the game. The team could then match up the signals from those coaches to the plays on the field, gaining an advantage. Goodell stripped New England of their first-round draft choice that year, fined head coach Bill Belichick $500,000, and fined the team an additional $250,000.

The harshest of the punishments in the bounty program case is thought to be targeting Gregg Williams. Williams was the defensive coordinator for the Saints from 2009 to 2011, and was the manager of the bounty program. Williams reportedly ran bounty programs when he was the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2007, and when he was the Buffalo Bills head coach from 2001 to 2003. Williams left the Saints this offseason to join his long-time friend Jeff Fisher as the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator.

Related: New Orleans Saints Bounty Program Investigation Spreads

Fisher was the Miami Dolphins leading candidate for the head coach position, now filled by former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

The NFL is thought to be including Payton and Loomis in the penalties since neither one ended the program. Loomis was, reportedly, told by the NFL during the 2011 season to end the bounties, and failed to do so.

According to the NFL's report, between 22 and 27 players were involved in the Saints' bounty program.

The league is taking the bounty program seriously, as Goodell has fought to clean up the game, and reduce injuries to players. The NFL is currently being sued by multiple former players for injuries those players suffered during their careers. Players and coaches running bounties, purposely looking to injure players, will not help any side of the lawsuits, or NFL's efforts.

The league has stated that, besides suspensions, fines and forfeiture of draft picks could be involved in the punishment for the Saints. Interestingly, the Patriots have the Saints first round pick this year, after a draft day trade last year. The league would likely take a later round pick from the Saints this year, then their first round pick in 2013 if they target draft choices.

No decision has been made by the league, as of yet.

The league also announced earlier today that they would now investigate the Redskins for their use of the bounty program during Williams' years there.

Williams has been called to the league offices in New York tomorrow.