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Sean Payton suspended: Saints coach suspended for one year, reports say

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NEW YORK (AP/ABC7) - The NFL has suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is banned from the league indefinitely because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Commissioner Roger Goodell will review Williams' status after the upcoming season and consider whether he can return to the league.

Also Wednesday, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of 2012, and assistant coach Joe Vitt has to sit out the first six games.

"No one is above the game or the rules that govern it," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised."

The Saints now must decide who will coach the team while Payton is barred, his suspension is effective April 1, and who will make roster moves while Loomis is out.

After the NFL made clear that punishments were looming, Payton and Loomis took the blame for violations that they acknowledged "happened under our watch" and said Saints owner Tom Benson "had nothing to do" with the bounty pool, which reached as much as $50,000 in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.

In addition, the Saints are being fined $500,000 and forfeit second-round draft picks this year and in 2013. The league says as many as 27 players were involved in the program.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, who was the first to report the story, is reporting that Payton's suspension reportedly begins on April 1.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has also been suspended for 8 games, the team has been fined and will also forfeit a series of draft picks in 2012 and 2013.

Payton led the Saints to the franchise's only Super Bowl title in 2009.

Williams, who currently works on the St. Louis Rams coaching staff, served as the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins between 2004 and 2007, and the NFL spent time investigating whether or not he implemented a similar bounty structure during his time in D.C.

After the NFL first made its investigation public on March 2, Williams admitted to - and apologized for - running the program as the Saints' defensive coordinator from 2009-11. He was hired by the St. Louis Rams this offseason.

The NFL typically reserves these kinds of  year-long suspensions for the most serious of charges, including for drug policy violations and extreme breaches of the league's personal conduct policy.

Two prominent players from the 1960s, Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers and Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, were each suspended for the entire 1963 season for betting on NFL games.

This is a developing story. More to come. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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