When Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were busted for illegally videotaping the New York Jets from the sidelines, they were fined $250,000, Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was docked a first round pick. Unsurprisingly, Adam Schefter and others predicted earlier that the New Orleans Saints bounty program would invite a much harsher punishment from the league. While that seems reasonable without any deep analysis of NFL rules and previous scandals, SI.com's Peter King explains exactly why that is the case.
Since mid-2010, when a spate of head injuries ratcheted up the NFL's attention to player safety, Goodell has been nearly manic about player safety. The league has heavily fined players for excessive and late hits on players, and Goodell's relationship with many prominent players in the league has been radically affected because of it. That's why the penalties in this case will be significantly more severe -- almost certainly -- than what was levied on the Patriots four seasons ago. It's hard enough for players to stay on the field in the first place, never mind when a team is purposely trying to injure them.
That's why you can expect Goodell to issue the most severe penalties of his six-year reign on the Saints as soon as late this month.
It's impossible to predict what kind of penalty the NFL is going to lay on the Saints, but it wouldn't be stunning if it was so severe that it hindered the team's ability to be competitive in 2012 and into the near future.