STUNNER: NFL suspends Payton for 1 year beginning April 1; fines Saints $500K

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New Orleans was braced for the NFL to lay down major penalties in the Saints bounty case — but no one saw this coming:

Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season. General manager Mickey Loomis is also suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season. The NFL claims Payton and Loomis had knowledge of the bounties but failed to take steps to stop them.

The Saints also were fined $500,000 and stripped of second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013.

Sainst assistant coach was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games.

The penalties are the most severe and wide-ranging against a team since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell disciplined the New England Patriots for the “Spygate” scandal of 2007.

The New Orleans Twitterverse is exploding right now — mostly with variations on this theme:

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