Payton sorry for bounties

METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton apologized Friday for the bounty system under which Saints players were offered payouts for big hits on opponents, saying he takes "full responsibility" for the program that operated for three years under his watch.

"I share and fully support the league's concerns and goals on player safety," the New Orleans coach said in a written statement released by the team. "It is, and should be paramount.

"Respecting our great game and the NFL shield is extremely important to me," Payton added, referring to the league's famous logo.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday suspended Payton for the 2012 season, effective April 1, one of several unprecedented penalties he issued against the Saints.

Payton said that, as head coach, he should take full responsibility for an operation which the NFL says offered improper cash bonuses for blows that either knocked targeted star players out of the game or left them needing help off the field.

The NFL has said Payton initially lied to NFL investigators about the program, at first denying its existence, and also instructed his defensive assistants to lie. The league also slapped an eight-game suspension on general manager Mickey Loomis and a six-game suspension on assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers.

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. Goodell also fined the Saints $500,000 and took away second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013.

The NFL has said the bounty program started in 2009, Williams' first season, when the Saints also won their only Super Bowl. The league also found that the program continued through 2011 even after NFL officials told the Saints to check into it and put a stop to it if they found anything improper was going on.

Payton issued one earlier written apology a few days after the NFL first released the findings of its probe on March 2.

In his latest statement, Payton said the Saints "will implement all necessary protections and protocols, and I will be more vigilant going forward."

Payton, however, won't begin exercising that vigilance until after New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl next February, when his suspension officially ends.


Just days after trading for Tim Tebow, the Jets shipped disgruntled backup quarterback Drew Stanton to the Indianapolis Colts Friday for a sixth-round draft pick.

The move comes just a week after Stanton signed with the Jets on a one-year, $1.25 million deal, thinking he would be the team's No. 2 quarterback behind Mark Sanchez.

The Colts will also receive a seventh-round pick in the trade.

Stanton wanted out of town as soon as the Jets traded for Tebow Wednesday, since he had turned down other offers to sign with the Jets, the New York Post reported.

"When we signed Drew, obviously this was not contemplated in that decision," Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said Wednesday night after announcing the Tebow trade. "When you get an unexpected opportunity to add a player like Tim, you have to take advantage of that."

Once the Jets landed Tebow, Stanton's camp asked for a trade. They wanted him to land somewhere he could be the No. 2 quarterback and gave the Jets a list of teams he wanted to go to.


The Green Bay Packers made a rare reach into unrestricted free agency to find a new anchor for their offensive line, signing veteran center Jeff Saturday to a two-year deal on Friday.

The Packers made the signing official late Friday afternoon, also announcing the signing of former Colts defensive lineman Daniel Muir.

Saturday's agent, Ralph Cindrich, confirmed that the Packers and Saturday had agreed to a two-year deal. ESPN reported the deal earlier in the day.

The 36-year-old Saturday has started 188 regular season games in 13 NFL seasons.

He replaces former Packers starter Scott Wells, who signed with the St. Louis Rams as a free agent.


Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber said he plans to retire.

His decision, posted on the team's website Friday, comes one day after Michael Bush signed a four-year, $14 million contract to be part of a backfield that includes disgruntled Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte.

The 28-year-old Barber spent his first six NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Bears in 2011.


Newly-signed Denver quarterback Peyton Manning will see at least one familiar face on offense next season, following the Broncos signing of former Colts tight end Jacob Tamme.

Tamme, who spent four seasons in Indianapolis with Manning, agreed to a three-year deal worth $9 million, The Denver Post reported Friday.

The former fourth-round draft pick out of Kentucky caught just 19 balls for 177 yards and one touchdown last season with Manning stuck on the sidelines due to offseason neck surgeries.

But Tamme's most productive season coincided with what proved to be Manning's final year as the Colts' starter. The tight end caught 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns while filling in for an injured Dallas Clark.

NFL Network

The NFL Network has warned Warren Sapp not to overstep his role as analyst after the former defensive tackle claimed Jeremy Shockey was the "snitch" behind the league's probe into the Saints' illegal bounty program.

The allegation prompted a furious Twitter spat between Sapp and former Saints tight end Shockey, who vehemently denied the accusation and even offered to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence.

NFL Network brass entered the fray Friday, issuing a terse statement saying they had reminded Sapp of his role in their organization.

"We have discussed it with Warren and stressed that he is an analyst and not a reporter for NFL Network," NFL Network Senior Vice President of Programming and Production Mark Quenzel said in a statement, according to NBC's Pro Football Talk.

"In the future, if he comes across something he thinks is news he will let his producers know and before it is reported or Tweeted, that content will be subject to the same verification procedure that our reporters follow."

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