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NFL upholds suspensions for Saints over 'bounty' program

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In this July 29, 2011 file photo, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, left, talks with general manager Mickey Loomis during NFL football training camp at the team's practice facility, in Metairie, La. (AP/File)

Sean Payton now knows for certain he won't be coaching in 2012.

  And the New Orleans Saints must figure out whether Bill Parcells or someone else is best suited to take over a team seeking its fourth straight trip to the playoffs.

  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday rejected the Saints' appeals of their unprecedented punishment stemming from the league's investigation of the club's bounty system. The program ran from 2009-11 and offered off-the-books bonuses for big hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games or hurt them enough that they required help getting to the sideline.

  In addition to upholding Payton's suspension, which begins next Monday and runs through the Super Bowl -- in New Orleans next season -- Goodell also upheld suspensions of eight games for general manager Mickey Loomis and six games for assistant head coach Joe Vitt, along with a $500,000 fine for the franchise and the loss of second-round draft picks this year and next.

  Vitt and Loomis begin their suspensions after the preseason ends.

  The Saints case represents perhaps the starkest example yet of the sea change that the NFL has undergone since medical research and media reports on the long-term damage suffered by football players through concussions began to gain attention a few years ago.

  While former players have talked about off-the-books incentives have been around for years, and current players say the tough talk about getting after specific opponents happens in locker rooms throughout the NFL, Goodell responded to the Saints' case with unprecedented penalties.

  Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who left the Saints after last season to join the St. Louis Rams, ran the bounty program and has been suspended indefinitely. He did not appeal.

  Goodell said in a statement if Payton, Loomis and Vitt "embrace the opportunity and participate in a constructive way," he would consider reducing the financial penalties on them. While none of them has been fined, each will lose significant amounts while not being paid their salaries during the suspensions.

  Goodell also "would consider whether there are factors that would support modifying the forfeiture of the team's 2013 second-round draft choice."