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Former Redskins Coach Gregg Williams Suspended For Bounties

By ZAC BOYER | | @ZacBoyer

The NFL announced Wednesday it has suspended Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins, for an indefinite period of time – and at least a year – for his role in coordinating a bounty scheme in New Orleans over the past three seasons.

Williams, who left the Redskins after the 2007 season, was found to have overseen a pay-for-performance system in which between 22 and 27 defensive players were offered and distributed payment for big plays. Those plays included not only fumble recoveries or interceptions, but also for injuring players – most notably quarterback Brett Favre, who, when with Minnesota in 2009, was under orders from linebacker Jonathan Vilma to take him out of the game for a $10,000 payment.

“Beyond the clear and continuing violations of league rules, and lying to investigators, the bounty program is squarely contrary to the league’s most important initiatives – enhancing player health and safety and protecting the integrity of the game,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the league. “Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety. Programs of this kind have no place in our game and we are determined that bounties will no longer be a part of the NFL.”

In addition to Williams, the league also suspended head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight games and linebackers coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. The team will be fined $500,000, forfeit its second-round picks in both the 2012 and 2013 drafts and be ordered to lead league initiatives in educational efforts on fair play and respect in football.

Any potential discipline against players who participated in the scheme has not yet been determined by the league.

The NFL originally announced the findings of its investigation on March 2. Williams, according to the statement released by the league on Wednesday, was instructed by Payton to “make the defense nasty,” and did so by “overseeing record keeping, defining payout amounts, deciding on who received payouts, and distributing envelopes with cash to players who earned rewards.”

Williams, who occasionally contributed money out of his own pocket to the pools, misled league investigators when originally questioned in 2010 and made no effort to stop the scheme.

Multiple reports over the past month have connected Williams, who also worked as an assistant in Tennessee and Jacksonville and as the head coach in Buffalo, to similar schemes during previous stays with other teams.

A variety of Redskins players past and present who played for Williams offered differing accounts of their familiarity with such a scheme while in Washington, including former linebacker LaVar Arrington, who has said he had no knowledge of a pay-for-performance ploy, and former defensive end Phillip Daniels – now the director of player development – who said there was.

The NFL has reportedly opened an investigation into Williams’ scheme while in Washington. Aside from special teams coach Danny Smith, no other Redskins coaches were with the team during Williams’ tenure.

The league likewise has mandated that the principal owner of each of the other 31 teams “meet with the head coach and confirm that the club does not operate a similar pay-for-performance or bounty program,” and that if it does, to end it immediately. Each owner and head coach must certify a program does not exist within its team by March 30.

“Bounty programs have no place in our game,” Goodell said in a statement. “They are incompatible with our efforts to promote sportsmanship, fair play, and player safety.”

The Redskins are scheduled to play the Saints in New Orleans this season, but a date and time have not yet been released by the league.