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The New Orleans Saints' hopes at becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl took a major hit on March 2 when Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that players, coaches and the general manager were either involved in, or had knowledge of, a "pay for play" program which allegedly rewarded defensive players for so-called "cart-offs" or plays that knocked opposing players out of games.
Head Coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were suspended for the entire 2012 season, although Vilma returned on appeal. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- the alleged mastermind -- was placed on indefinite suspension. General Manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt each received 6 game suspensions. Vitt returned to serve as interim head coach. Three other players received varying suspensions.
On Dec. 11, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who Goodell brought in to review the case, vacated all the player suspensions, but added that their conduct was still detrimental to the league.