The NFL released its findings today from an investigation into allegations that the New Orleans Saints had administered a bounty program in which they awarded their players for injuring the opposition. The investigation found that these allegations were true.
Multiple sources have corroborated the story. The NFL found that the Saints program paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart off." The payouts were doubled or tripled in the playoffs. Some of the money came from players, but also some came from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Saints GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton claimed to have no knowledge of the program, but were made aware of the allegations in 2009. Neither made any attempt stop them according to the NFL's investigators.
"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," Commissioner Goodell said. "The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.
"It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it."
The Saints are doubly hot water here because not only have they violated the NFL's collective bargaining agreement by giving non contract bonuses to players, but in an era of increased focused on player safety... they were rewarding guys for literally injuring players. Not just delivering big hits, hurting guys.
In fact, both Kurt Warner and Brett Favre were injured in games against the Saints during their Super Bowl playoff run. The NFL found that they had specifically targeted them and offered large bonuses for injuring the two.
The NFL will now confer with the player's association, who can't possibly be happy to hear this, and the team could be subject to fines and suspensions for the players and coaches involved as well as the forfeiture of draft picks.
Gregg Williams is now the defensive coordinator of the Rams and will almost assuredly face some pretty stiff penalties from the league. Williams also ran a bounty system while he was with the Washington Redskins. You have to wonder whether the NFL will want to have a guy like that ever coach in the leauge again.
Of course, we can't have this story and not mention that Buddy Ryan basically did the same thing.