Story Summary

Saints “bounty-gate” allegations and punishments

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal was an incident in which several defensive players and coaches from the Saints were alleged to have operated a slush fund that paid out bonuses for in-game performance in violation of NFL rules.

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This story has 9 updates
News with a Twist
04/25/12

Saints enduring one PR nightmare after another

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Another week, another bad Saints story. That might be a little bit of a stretch, but the Saints certainly aren’t short on bad news lately.

First it was “Bountygate,” the Saints extra-curricular payment plan to defensive players. Head coach Sean Payton is just days into his 300+ day suspension. Now it’s a whole new alleged scam, with this one allegedly taking place 8 seasons ago.

According to ESPN and their award winning, highly reputable program “Outside The Lines,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was illegally listening in to the opposing teams coaches at the Superdome during games from 2002-2004. This allegedly happened during the Jim Haslett era and not on Sean Payton’s watch.

The Saints and Loomis are denying the charge.

True or not, the Saints once again have, at the very least, another PR nightmare. ESPN and “Outside The Lines” aren’t in the business of making stories up. They have a solid reputation when it comes to breaking sports news. It’s really a question of who do you believe, award winning ESPN, owned by ABC television or Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans Saints?

A lot of local folks, including some sports media members are skeptical of ESPN’s report. I’m a little more skeptical of Loomis and the Saints, especially after bounty gate. Either way, let’s hope the latest bad news isn’t true. The last thing the Saints need is more heat from the NFL.

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Federal and state officials are now taking a look at the New Orleans Saints, and not on a big screen TV or from club level seats.

They’re looking into whether laws were broken after an ESPN report alleging the team secretly recorded or listened to conversations of their opponents at the Superdome between 2002 and 2004.

Wiretapping allegations, pending suspensions of players, current suspensions are all part of a seemingly unending avalanche of bad publicity for the 2010 Super Bowl Champions.

The FBI and Louisiana State Police acknowledged Tuesday they are working to find out if Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis electronically eavesdropped on opponents in the Superdome.

A Saints official didn’t answer an email Tuesday when asked whether the team had been contacted by law enforcement.

A spokesman for SMG, the company that runs the Superdome, said they had not been contacted and had no further comment.

Loomis and the Saints have denied all of the allegations in ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.

Moving forward from an image standpoint these days can’t be terribly easy for the Black and Gold.

Public Relations man Todd Ragusa of Ragusa Consulting has worked with the New Orleans mayor’s office and others over the years.

Ragusa says the Saints represent a resilient city and will get through their current public problems with their own resilience.

During a news conference at the team’s Metairie facility Tuesday, Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt sounded like a P.R. pro.

“We owe it to our fans. Our fans have always been there for us. We want the people of New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region to be proud of us. We’re going to give them our best”, Vitt said.

If their “best” means a winning season, then that could be just the image medicine they need.

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The NFL announced Monday that Commissioner Roger Goodell would not reduce the punishments for Saints Coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt or Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis.

The decision came after Goodell spent about six hours speaking with the Saints staff members named in the bounty scandal.

Coach Payton’s season-long suspension will begin on Monday, April 16. Coach Vitt will be suspended for the first six games of the regular season. Loomis will observe his suspension for the first eight games of the regular season.

“At the conclusion of their suspensions, the commissioner will review the status of each of the three individuals to determine their eligibility for reinstatement,” according to an item on NFL.com.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams did not appeal his indefinite suspension.

Goodell also announced that depending on how the inviduals, and the team as a whole, deal with these suspensions, the financial penalties and the forfeiture of the Saints’ 2013 second-round draft pick may be up for debate.

No punishments for the up to 27 Saints players who may have been involved in the program have been announced.

News with a Twist
04/06/12

Sean Payton’s “bounty-gate” story doesn’t add up

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Saints head coach Sean Payton is appealing his suspension to the NFL. Yesterday in New York at the NFL offices, Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt were all pleading their cases, essentially saying former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is the culprit in this “bounty gate” scandal.

The Saints – and especially Payton – are trying to sell to the NFL the story that head coach Sean Payton, who is a major micro-manager, didn’t micro-manage Williams.  That a coach who always crosses every “t” and dots every “i” didn’t do so with Williams.  A head coach that sacrificed $250,000 of his own salary to bring in Williams, wasn’t really aware of the extent of the bounty program.

Payton and the Saints actually told the NFL yesterday that they told Williams to stop the bounty program and the crazy defensive coordinator wouldn’t listen. Guess who else isn’t listening? The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.

A little over 2 years ago, in the middle of the bounty scandal, the Saints were celebrating their Super Bowl 44 victory. Payton and Williams were hugging and celebrating. Yesterday Payton dug a big hole and threw Williams in it. Problem is the NFL thinks Payton deserves to be in the same hole.

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Former Saints Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams could be considered the most infamous assistant NFL coach to ever roam a sideline.

A hits-for-pay bounty program that turned a proud football club on its head is one reason. Audio of the suspended coach that surfaced Thursday is another.

Williams’ instructions for his defense to follow against the San Francisco 49ers–the Saints last playoff opponent–captured the attention of the sports world since the filmmaker who recorded them went public.

Yet some say such tough talk is just part of a violent game.

John Ehret High School football coach, Billy North says Williams’ recorded comments should be kept in perspective.

North, who coached NFL greats like Reggie Wayne and Kordell Stewart, says Williams’ shocking statements are sometimes the norm in a vicious sport celebrated for bone-crushing hits, especially at the pro level.

“We can look back at it and say ‘how terrible’, but it is part of the game,” North said.

But Williams talked about going after specific men and body their parts in a league dealing multiple law suits from brain damaged retired players still reeling from concussions.

“Don’t ever don’t ever, don’t ever, don’t ever coach your kids to injure somebody else. Don’t ever do that,” said North today from his school’s Marrero football field.

But, he also added, what’s shocking to some outside of football can be the part of the job for men called “coach”.

“The P.C. stuff…Let that stay in Washington or Baton Rouge. There’s no ‘P.C.’ in football.”

Sports
03/27/12

Sean Payton speaks about his suspension

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For the first time since his 1-year suspension was announced, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke about the Saints’ bounty program.

Payton told reporters in Palm Beach, Florida that he would meet with his mentor, former Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Bill Parcells, while he was in Florida, but Payton was vague on whether he would discuss Parcells coaching the Saints in 2012.

“I really called him more as just a mentor, someone to shoot some idea off of,” Payton said. “That would be very consistent with what I do. Obviously, this is different, but I speak to him pretty regularly.”

Payton said he will decide in the next two or three days whether he will appeal his suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty program. He said no NFL players were deliberately injured by the program, and he said he did not tell former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to “make the defense nasty.”

WGNO Sports Director Ed Daniels asked Payton if he was surprised by the damning language used by the league to describe his actions.

“I haven’t seen a copy of the report,” responded Payton. “So it’s hard for me to go through each item, line by line.”

Payton said for the first time in 39 years he will not be a player or a coach this fall, but he is “100% certain” that he will return as a Saints coach in 2013.

 

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In his first remarks to the media, six days after his suspension, I would say that Saints head coach Sean Payton was conciliatory.

At no time did Payton say he was sorry. But, he said enough when he said, “(I am) trying to look closely at how I can improve is probably a better way for me to handle this, than to vent or look outwardly at other programs. I have tried to take that approach.”

Payton wouldn’t get into specifics of what for him was a damning NFL report. But, he did say that NFL investigators first approached the Saints about potential bounty allegations at the end of the “2009-2010 season.”

Payton has a long way to go to get out of the NFL’s doghouse. At the league meetings in Palm Beach, Florida the buzz is that the bounty program was the tipping point in the league’s overall unhappiness with Payton.

In 2010, Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt were both accused in a lawsuit by the team’s former security chief, of theft and abuse of the pain killer, Vicodin. The Saints denied the allegations, and said the suit was baseless, and filed by a disgruntled ex-employee.

When the topic was the Saints this week, the word arrogance was tossed around almost as much as the number of passes Drew Brees threw in the 2011 season.

If I were Payton, there are two things I wouldn’t do: I would not ask owner Tom Benson to hire Bill Parcells as the head coach of the Saints in 2012. And, I would not appeal the season long suspension.

Parcells doesn’t seem all that interested. And, bringing someone who Payton calls “a parent” to the Saints sideline would only reinforce the notion that Payton will be heavily involved during his suspension.

Parcells should serve in an advisory role, only.

And, appealing a suspension would only seem to buy Payton a few extra days past the scheduled April 1st start of his suspension.

What Payton should do is hire one of his assistant coaches to steward the club through the 2012 season. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who called plays for much of the 2011 season, would seem to be a likely choice.

Carmichael has a huge comfort level with Drew Brees. And, this is critical. Remember, Parcells has often had love/hate relationships with his quarterbacks. That is something the Saints don’t need as a distraction in Payton’s absence.

Payton should remain contrite. That isn’t in his nature. Even Tuesday, with cameras and reporters surrounding him, Payton had a moment of tempered bravado. He said the Saints would continue to win.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has reduced suspensions, previously.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got a 6 six game ban in the spring of 2010. But, that ban was later reduced to 4 games.

Payton should consider to say what he said Tuesday in Palm Beach. That is “I have to do a better job” and “as a leader I am responsible.”

Right now, Sean Payton is in the NFL’s version of the penalty box. But, his penalty might not be a “game misconduct.” If he lays low, and stays humble, there’s always a chance the commissioner might reward contrition with a return sometime late in the 2012 season.

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Michelle Dufour wants to make a fashion statement, like many people. But when it comes to one particular T-shirt, she really is making a statement. She is after a T-shirt that displays the message: “Free Sean” as in Saints Coach Sean Payton. It also has an image of his face. The demand for T-shirts like this has spread since Payton was suspended for a year because of the team’s bounty program.

“I think he knew about it , yes, he tried to hide it, absolutely. He’s owned up to it now so now time to move on, so hopefully we can get Mr. Brees signed and start working on that new year,” Dufour said.

While Dufour is finding her shirt at Skip N Whistle in Carrollton, there are other stores trying to keep up with the growing demand too with similar messages, and slightly different styles.  All say they haven’t seen a T-shirt craze like this in a while.

“Oh it`s out of control!” said Skip N Whistle Shop Manager Kristen Romig,”I mean the majority of people buying shirts , go into the dressing room and walk out wearing it.”

The list of orders is long from phone and web orders in the past few days. They have shipments going around the world at both Skip N Whistle and Fleurty Girl Stores.

“We’ve been working late to get the orders and shirts printed out as fast as we can for every size and style,” said Courtney Pittman of Fleurty Girl.

Not only do people want a shirt with a message, many want to say they are behind their coach.

He admitted he was wrong. He was wrong, but we’re going to support him regardless. People make mistakes, and we`re going to stand by him, and we hope he comes back,” Romig said.

 

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The New Orleans Saints released the following statement from head coach Sean Payton regarding the recent “bounty-gate” controversy:

I share and fully support the League’s concerns and goals on player safety. It is, and should be paramount.

Respecting our great game and the NFL shield is extremely important to me.

Our organization will implement all necessary protections and protocols, and I will be more vigilant going forward.

I am sorry for what has happened and as head coach take full responsibility.

Finally, I want to thank Mr. Benson, our players and all Saints fans for their overwhelming support.

Head Coach Sean Payton
New Orleans Saints

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