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NEW YORK (AP) — Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a message to every coach and player in the NFL: safety first. The league commissioner stuck with his punishments for New Orleans’ pay-for-pain bounties on Monday, rejecting Saints coach Sean Payton’s appeal of a season-long suspension.
An NFL investigation found that, under Payton’s watch, an assistant ran a program offering cash payouts for hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games or hurt them so badly they needed help getting to the sideline.
Next on Goodell’s agenda: discipline for players involved in the bounty program that began in 2009, the season the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Given recent history, at least some of those penalties are likely to be tough.
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.
As recently as October 2009, while testifying before Congress, Goodell did not acknowledge a link between head injuries on the field and brain diseases later in life. And hundreds of NFL retirees are now suing the league for health problems they say began with their playing careers.
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