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Saints head coach expresses 'regret' in bounty scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sean Payton says as head coach, he's responsible for "anything that happens" on team
  • NEW: Payton will consider appealing his suspension over the next 2-3 days
  • Last week, several Saints coaches were punished over a "bounty" scandal
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is focusing on punishments for players

(CNN) -- New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said Tuesday he is disappointed in himself and feels regret over a scandal that has left him suspended for the entire 2012 season.

"As the head coach, anything that happens within the framework of your team and your program you're responsible for. And that's a lesson I've learned," Payton said in his first public comments since the NFL announced he will be suspended without pay. "And it's one that It's easy to get carried away in regards to a certain side of the ball, or more involved offensively or defensively, and that's something I regret."

An NFL investigation found the team had an "active bounty program" during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons in which "bounty" payments were given to players for hits that hurt opposing players and knocked them out of the game.

The NFL found evidence that bounties were put out on quarterbacks Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, and Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals.

It also found that Payton lied about the bounty program. In his remarks Tuesday, Payton did not admit any such wrongdoing.

The probe found that the Saints showed "a deliberate effort to conceal the program's existence from league investigators, and a clear determination to maintain the program despite express direction from Saints ownership that it stop as well as ongoing inquiries from the league office," the NFL said.

Former Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games.

The team was also fined $500,000 and will forfeit its second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, the National Football League has said. More suspensions could be coming, the NFL said.

Payton told reporters he was going through a "range of emotions."

"You're disappointed, you're disappointed in yourself that it got to this point," he said.

Asked whether anyone on another team was injured as a result of the bounty program, Payton said no.

With five days left to appeal his suspension, Payton said he will make a decision in the next two to three days.

Speculation is swirling around whether he will ask coach Bill Parcells to return to the NFL to take over for him for the year.

Payton wrote off the speculation, saying he will visit Parcells on Tuesday or Wednesday, but that he is a "mentor" and the two speak regularly. "I think we're a little ahead of ourselves with regards to that," he said of the speculation.

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday he's focusing on punishments for players.

"Before I make any decisions, I would like to hear from the players," Goodell said Monday at the football league's annual meeting in Florida.

Goodell would not give a timetable of when the punishments would come, saying he wanted to talk to the NFL Players Association first.

The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, in the midst of the bounty program.

Payton said he is concerned the scandal may "tarnish the success we've had."

Goodell has said the "pay-for-performance" program "undermined the integrity of the game."

A statement last week from the NFL on the website NFL.com added that the violations "were compounded by the failure of Coach Payton to supervise the players and coaches and his affirmative decision starting in 2010 (a) not to inquire into the facts concerning the pay-for-performance/bounty program even though he was aware of the league's inquiries both in 2010 and 2012; (b) to falsely deny that the program existed; (c) to encourage the false denials by instructing assistants to 'make sure our ducks are in a row;' and (d) to ignore instructions from the league office and club ownership to ensure that no such program existed."

"When interviewed in 2012, Sean Payton claimed to be entirely unaware of the program, a claim contradicted by others," the statement said. "Further, prior to the Saints' opening game in 2011, Coach Payton received an email from a close associate that stated in part, 'PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers (sic).' When shown the email during the course of the investigation, Coach Payton stated that it referred to a 'bounty' on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers."

CNN's Josh Levs and Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.

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