The NFL announced Wednesday that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be suspended for one season without pay for his involvement in the team's bounty program. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
The team has also been fined $500,000 and will have to give up its second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL Drafts.
The league said in a news release that the involvement of individual players in the program is still being reviewed, and that any discipline will be announced at a future time.
In addition, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season.
Payton's suspension will begin April 1 and last for the entire 2012 season. Loomis' suspension, which is also without pay, will be for the first eight games of the 2012 season.
Williams, who was hired to be the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator earlier this year, will have his status reviewed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the 2012 regular season has ended, according to the release. Goodell will then decide if Williams should be reinstated.
Sources close to Williams told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that they were shocked by the news. The sources said they had been expecting a shorter suspension, something like a month or six games, and had been hoping for something that would last less than half a season.
The release spelled out Williams' involvement in the program, which was extensive. According to the release, he helped fund the pool that rewards came from, in addition to being the architect of the scheme.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees reacted very strongly to Payton's punishment.
"I am speechless," Brees wrote via his Twitter account. "Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment."
Williams and Vitt also "misled" the league in its attempts to investigate the program, and Williams kept the program going in 2010.