New Orleans Saints  

 

Evasiveness of Saints GM, coach detailed in league summary

New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis failed to stop his team's "bounty" program after it was brought to his attention twice in the past two seasons.

Coach Sean Payton tried to deter an NFL investigation into the "bounty" scandal in 2010 by telling staffers to "get your ducks in a row," when notified that league security was in New Orleans to interview team employees.

While former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is the central figure in the scandal -- 22 to 27 players also have been implicated -- the roles of Payton and Loomis were highlighted in a league summary that was obtained by NFL Network and NFL.com on Tuesday.

Loomis and Payton, who had been silent since the NFL's investigation surfaced Friday, took full responsibility for the violations in a statement released Tuesday.

"We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility. This has brought undue hardship on (owner Tom) Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.

"These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans."

According to the NFL's summary, Loomis failed to stop the bounty practice -- players and at least two assistant coaches paid for big plays and for hits that resulted in opposing players being carted off the field or knocked out of games -- after being alerted by NFL security in 2010 and owner Tom Benson in January of 2012, drawing a strong rebuke.

"In this respect, he failed to ensure that the club, and the coaching staff he supervised, conducted themselves in a way consistent with league rules and further failed to carry out the express instructions of the club's owner," the summary reads.

The summary also found that in "early" 2010, when NFL security went to investigate Saints employees, Payton told his staff to, "get your ducks in a row." Payton is said to have been aware of the "bounty" program with an email from convicted felon and marketing agent Mike Ornstein confirming as much.

"Coach Payton also received an email from Ornstein committing $5,000 towards a bounty on an opposing quarterback, which the coach recognized as a pledge toward a bounty," the summary stated.

Ornstein, a marketing agent for former Saints running back Reggie Bush and a confidant of Payton's who pleaded guilty last year to illegally selling Super Bowl tickets, pledged $10,000 toward the quarterback bounty in 2009, according to the summary. On at least two occasions in 2011, Ornstein "pledged substantial sums toward a bounty on an opposing quarterback."

Gregg Williams is the central figure of the investigation, though, since the "bounty" program was alleged to have been overseen by him, which he acknowledged shortly after the league's finding surfaced Friday.  According to the report, Williams, along with linebackers coach Joe Vitt, initially denied a "bounty" program in the 2010 investigation, as did former defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

In reports that surfaced last weekend, players in Washington and Buffalo said that similar bounty programs were in place when Williams coached there. Williams met with NFL Security in New York on Monday to discuss the recent reports.

Severe discipline is expected to be handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before league meetings in Florida on March 26. The Saints could be fined and be docked draft picks. Loomis, Payton and Williams, now the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, could be suspended.

A league official said Monday that the 22-27 players who funded and participated in the bounty program also will face stiff punishment.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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