Who Dat Say The Saints Defense Had A “Bounty” Program! [VIDEO]
What's going on? Why are the Saints being accused of intentionally hurting other players? What's going to happen? As the investigation unfolds, it looks like the situation is quite serious.
Here's the facts reported by ESPN and the NFL. Somewhere between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, allegedly maintained some sort of a "bounty" program. A program funded primarily by players in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
An all out investigation took place by the league's security department and unfortunately it has determined that an improper "pay for performance" program was being used. Basically, this program also included "bounty" payments to players for inflicting injuries on specific opposing players that would result in them being removed from a game
According to the leagues investigation, in some cases, the amounts pledged were both significant and direct. Shockingly enough, four former Redskins players, including defensive end Phillip Daniels, told the Washington Post that Williams had a similar system while serving as the Redskins' defensive coordinator.
According to the investigations findings, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis continued to operate the "bounty" program in spite of
being told to stop by team owner Tom Benson. Meanwhile, coach Sean Payton was aware of the allegations, but did not pursue them or take steps to stop the program.
Gregg Williams released this statement in regard to the findings and said, "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."
What happens next? It all rests in the hands of Commissioner Roger Goodell. Speaking of which, Goodell said "It is our responsibility to protect a players 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 NFLPA issued a statement Friday on the issue, stating "Health and safety is a paramount issue to the NFLPA. The NFLPA was informed of this investigation by the NFL earlier today and will review the information contained in the league's report."
For now, Commissioner Goodell has advised the Saints that he will hold proceedings to determine potential discipline against the team and the individuals involved, and that he will work the players' union regarding the appropriate punishment. That discipline could very steep and include fines, suspensions and even the forfeiture of certain draft choices.
Saints owner, Tom Benson said, "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."
To make matter even worse, the investigation also revealed that some players contributed cash into a pool and received payments of two kinds from it, based on their play in the previous week's game. Not only that but, payments were made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries. Plus, the program also included "bounty" payments for "cart-offs" and "knockouts" meaning that the opposing player was either carried off the field or not able to return.
As far as the "bounty" payments are concerned, the investigation showed that the total amount of funds in the pool may have reached $50,000 or more at its height during the 2009 playoffs. The program is alleged to have paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off," with payouts doubling or even tripling during the playoffs.
Of this Commissioner Goodell said, "The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players. The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity."
Allegedly, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any defensive player that knocked Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Ironically, Favre said if this proved to be true, "I'm not pissed. It's football. I don't think anything less of those guys."
All in all, this means MAJOR trouble for the Saints. Because the NFL has a longstanding rule prohibiting "non-contract bonuses," and the Saints, if reports are true, violated both the league constitutions and the collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. The fact is, all NFL teams are reminded of this rule every year in a memo from the commissioner himself.
So, when did this start and who launched the investigation? Commissioner Roger Goodell says "Our investigation began in early 2010 when allegations were first made that Saints players had targeted opposing players, including Kurt Warner of the Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Vikings. Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals. 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". However, Goodell continued "We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season."
Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett was injured by a hit from Roman Harper, who was not flagged or fined, in a Week 2 loss to the Saints. Bennett was out for five weeks with a chest injury. Bennett told ESPNChicago.com last Friday, "All I have to say is I hope we play them again. "The game of football is a contact sport, so if they're gunning for me, I'm going to be gunning for them."
The Saints aren't the first team Gregg Williams incorporated the "bounty" system with. According to a report last Friday by the Washington post, He employed a similar system while with the Redskins from 2004-07. Three former players came forward and admitted that Williams handed out thousands of dollars in accordance with a specific scoring system, including "kill shots" that resulted in opposing teams' top players being knocked out of the game.
ESPN and the NFL report, the investigation included the review of approximately 18,000 documents totaling more than 50,000 pages, interviews of a wide range of individuals and the use of outside forensic experts to verify the authenticity of key documents.
So, far there's no word as to if any other teams are being looked at. Doesn't matter though, because the Saints image is forever going to be tainted by this . As a major fan...I'm very disappointed.
Last but not least, Drew Brees who arrived in New Orleans post Katrina in '06, gave the city and the team life again. He also played a vital role in rebuilding New Orleans and and giving the city and fans new hope.
However, will he stay with the Saints? His contract is just about up. Brees is scheduled to become a free agent on March 13. He and the Saints are currently negotiating, but reports indicate they haven't come to an agreement just yet.
Brees had one hell of a year in which, he set the NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,476). There's no doubt he deserves to be paid at least as much as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who average about $18 million a year. Will he get it?
Hopefully the Saints can work this out, and keep Brees. The "bounty" issue alone is really going to hurt the team and it's image. I hate to think of what will happen if we lost Brees as well.