NEW ORLEANS, March 23 (UPI) -- New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton apologized Friday and said he took responsibility for the team's bounty program that brought heavy punishment from the NFL.
Payton has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, which will cost him $8 million in pay, as a result of a plan put into action by New Orleans defensive players designed to injure members of opposing teams.
Former Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams, accused by the NFL of administering the program, has been suspended indefinitely. New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis will miss the first eight regular-season games this season and assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games.
The team was fined $500,000 and lost a second-round choice in each of the next two drafts.
The penalties were handed out by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I share and fully support the league's concerns and goals on player safety," Payton said in a statement that appeared on the team's Web site. "It is, and should be paramount.
"Respecting our great game and the NFL shield is extremely important to me. Our organization will implement all necessary protections and protocols, and I will be more vigilant going forward. I am sorry for what has happened and as head coach take full responsibility. Finally, I want to thank Mr. Benson (team owner Tom Benson), our players and all Saints fans for their overwhelming support."