New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton apologized Tuesday to owner Tom Benson for their part in the bounty scandal that has roiled the franchise, and the pair also vowed nothing similar will unfold again in New Orleans under their watch.
The words came in a statement released by the team Tuesday afternoon. Neither Loomis nor Payton have spoken publicly about the matter, which engulfed the Saints last Friday. The NFL said the Saints employed a bounty payment system on defense from 2009 to 2011 that rewarded players for “knockout” and “cart-off” hits that sidelined opponents for part or all of a game.
Tuesday’s statement did not directly address the NFL’s accusations, and players such as former safety Darren Sharper have insisted the under-the-table bonuses were paid for high-impact plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, not deliberately injurious hits. The statement also came on a day in which new details dribbled out concerning the NFL’s investigation of the matter.
“We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility,” the Payton and Loomis statement began.
“This has brought undue hardship on Mr. Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity,” the statement continued. “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.”
The contrite language comes as several high-profile analysts and pro football writers have called for harsh penalties against the Saints, some even urging the team sack Loomis and Payton and for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to impose a similar punishment on Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who administered the bonuses when he had that job with the Saints. Williams issued a profuse apology for his role in the matter last week.
The Saints’ position, on the other hand, reflects no such dire shadings. Benson’s confidence in Loomis and Payton has not diminished, according to team sources, and while the furor rages outside the Saints’ Metairie headquarters, that atmosphere does not prevail within it. Indeed, both Loomis and Payton reportedly were at work Tuesday, supremely unruffled.