The New Orleans Saints have been found guilty of running a “bounty program” from 2009-2011, the league just announced.Here are the damning details:
More than 20 players and at least one assistant coach contributed to and maintained a bounty program, according to NFL.com.
The program paid players $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.
The bounty pool may have reached as much as $50,000 during the team’s 2009-10 Super Bowl run, according to Freeman.
Adam Schefter of ESPN says the investigation started after opposing teams said they targeted QBs such as Brett Favre and Kurt Warner.
Daniel Kaplan of Sport Business Journal reports that coach Sean Payton knew about the program.
In the NFL.com write up of the story, Roger Goodell says players and coaches denied the existence of the program for years:
“At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”
Another stunner from Kaplan: The Saints owner told the GM to discontinue the program. Be he didn’t stop it.
The NFL will discuss the punishment at the March league meeting. Schefter reports that possible punishments include fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft choices.
Schefter just said on ESPN that the penalties are going to be “exponentially” more severe than what the Patriots got for “SpyGate.”
Statement from Saints owner Tom Benson:
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.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has apologized, and taken “full responsibility” (via PFT):
“I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the ‘pay for performance’ program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.”
There’s also a report from Mike Freeman of CBS that Saints captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 cash to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of a playoff game in 2010.
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