MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The National Football League has released a shocking report into a “bounty” program carried out by the New Orleans Saints from 2009-2011 that paid players for intentionally injuring opposing players bad enough to force them out of the game.
The investigation began after allegations were made in 2010 that Saints players intentionally tried to injure both quarterback Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings.
According to the NFL, the program was administered by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other coaches. Williams also contributed money to the program on occasion.
The bounty program had players contribute to a pool and then the players would be paid one of two different payments for a hit that caused an injury. Payments were also made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but the NFL targeted the bounty program.
The NFL said the Saints coaches and players would pay out $1,500 for a “knockout” hit and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or even tripling during the playoffs. The non-contract bonuses are forbidden by the NFL and violate both the NFL’s rules and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players.
The NFL said that the initial investigation failed after those who were interviewed denied the existence of the program. The league developed new information and re-opened the investigation during the second half of the 2011 season.
According to the league, Saints head coach Sean Payton wasn’t a direct participant in the program, but was aware of it and did nothing to stop it. Saints owner Tom Benson was not aware of the bounty program and when made aware of instructed general manager Mickey Loomis to stop it.
However, according to the NFL, Loomis didn’t carry out Benson’s instructions and took no action to stop the practice. The NFL also said Loomis initially denied the program existed during the first part of the investigation.
Commissioner Goodell told the Saints that he will hold further proceedings to determine what punishment will be given to the organization. The hearings will include Goodell conferring with the NFL Players Association and individual player leaders to determine the proper course of action.
Goodell said the discipline could include fines, suspensions, and possibly the forfeiture of draft choices. The commissioner also said he would reserve his authority to impose further discipline if more information is found.
Former New England Patriots guard Damien Woody said on Twitter, “this ‘bounty’ program happens all around the league…not surprising.”
Needless to say, the Saints organization is in deep, deep trouble. Saints owner Tom Benson responded to the findings with a statement late Friday.
“I have been made aware of the NFL’s findings relative to the “Bounty Rule” and how it relates to our club. I have offered and the NFL has received our full cooperation in their investigation. While the findings may be troubling, we look forward to putting this behind us and winning more championships in the future for our fans.”