New Orleans Saints ran a bounty program to injure players

The news flying out of New Orleans today is hot and heavy. None hot and heavier than the NFL’s announcement that they have been investigating the New Orleans Saints for a bounty program to injure players under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

But that’s not all. The NFL’s investigation found Gregg Williams wasn’t running this program in secrecy. Sean Payton knew. GM Mickey Loomis knew. And once owner Tom Benson found out, he instructed Loomis to end the program, but Loomis did not.

So yeah, this looks extremely ugly.

After a lengthy investigation conducted by the NFL’s security department, the league announced Friday that 22 to 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints maintained a “pay for performance” program that included “bounty” payments administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.

The program runs in violation of league rules, and the investigation showed that Saints players received $1,500 for a “knockout” hit and $1,000 for a “cart-off” hit with payouts doubling or tripling during the team’s three playoff appearances. The program also entailed payments for interceptions and fumble recoveries, which also violates league rules against non-contract bonuses. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine the appropriate discipline based on the investigation, the league said in a statement.

Goodell said the investigation began in 2010 after allegations were made that the Saints defenders had targeted Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during their 2009 run to the Super Bowl.

“Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals,” Goodell said. “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.”

The investigation found the program was funded primarily by players and at one time might have reached $50,000. The league also said that other defensive coaches in addition to Williams, now the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator, were aware of the program.

The report found that Saints head coach Sean Payton was aware of the allegations and did not make any inquires and failed to stop the program. The league also said that general manager Mickey Loomis at one time was directed to end the program when team owner Tom Benson was made aware of the league’s findings, and he did not carry out Benson’s directions.

Look for Goodell to come down hard on New Orleans. In an era where player safety is pretty much the tagline for the NFL, suspensions and/or mega fines are likely.

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