Player discipline expected soon

Now that the NFL draft has been completed, it seems likely the next step in what has been a crazy offseason for the New Orleans Saints will come soon.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported several times during the draft that the NFL is expected to announce player discipline for the Saints bounty program this week. No firm date for the announcement has been mentioned, but it’s possible it could come as soon as Monday.

The league first revealed its investigation of the bounty program on March 2 and announced more than a month ago that coach Sean Payton would serve a season-long suspension, general manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games of the season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt would be suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season.

The Saints also were fined $500,000 and were stripped of second-round draft picks this year and next. The Saints appealed all of their punishments, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld them. Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also was suspended indefinitely and did not appeal.

Goodell said last week the league was in the final stages of its investigation of the players involved. He also said players embraced the bounty program. I think that was Goodell’s way of anticipating players saying they were simply following the orders of their coaches and a hint that the punishments will be harsh.

But it’s difficult to speculate how severe the punishments will be. When announcing the previous punishments, the league gave detailed accounts of the involvement of Payton, Loomis, Vitt and Williams. But that report did not go into much detail about player involvement.

The league said 22 to 27 players were involved over a three-year period. Obviously, that could include some players who now are with other teams and some players who are out of the league. The NFL also has implied that players who took leadership roles in the bounty program could draw the stiffest penalties.

Some players may draw fines, but Goodell’s statements are a pretty good indication that at least some suspensions are coming.

We’ll find out for sure soon.