The National Football League announced today that a couple dozen defensive players on the New Orleans Saints maintained a player-funded "bounty" system, which involved getting paid for injuring opposing players.
Hits on former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre sparked the investigation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says through the league's communications department.
According to the NFL, getting a player carted off the field earned a player $1,000, and knocking a player out of the game was worth $1,500.
During the playoffs, the payout doubled or tripled, the NFL says.
The NFL didn't get too specific on what's in the report, but Cards fans may remember this hit Warner took while playing the Saints in the 2009 playoffs:
The hit was legal, but if the Saints' Bobby McGray got paid for that bad-boy, that would be a problem.
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The 50,000-page report has been handed over to the commissioner, who will "determine the appropriate discipline" for anyone involved, the NFL says.
Read the NFL's bullet-point summary of the report below:
- During the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the players and other participants involved used their own money to fund a "Pay for Performance" program. Players earned cash awards for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries. They also earned "bounty" payments for "cart-offs" and "knockouts." All such payments violate league rules for non-contract bonuses.
- Players were willing and enthusiastic participants in the program, contributing regularly and at times pledging large amounts. Between 22 and 27 defensive players contributed funds to the pool over the course of three NFL seasons. In some cases, the amounts pledged were both significant and directed against a specific opposing player.
- The bounty program was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other defensive coaches. Funds were contributed on occasion by Williams.
- Saints owner Tom Benson gave immediate and full cooperation to the investigators. The evidence conclusively established that Mr. Benson was not aware of the bounty program. When informed earlier this year of the new information, Mr. Benson advised league staff that he had directed his general manager, Mickey Loomis, to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately. The evidence showed that Mr. Loomis did not carry out Mr. Benson's directions. Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010, he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged that he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.
- Although head coach Sean Payton was not a direct participant in the funding or administration of the program, he was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue.
- There is no question that a bounty program violates long-standing league rules. Payments of this type - even for legitimate plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries - are forbidden because they are inconsistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and well-accepted rules relating to NFL player contracts.