It’s Monday. Welcome back to work. Before the boss starts looking over your shoulder, here’s a chance to get caught up on one of the biggest scandals in NFL history, which the league wisely slipped through the late Friday afternoon five hole.
Right after you turned off your computer and headed home for a weekend of not surfing the Internet on your own time.
You’re likely feeling a little inadequate right now, because you don’t know the details as well as you’d like. That’s why we’re going to take you on a quick tour of the 29 bounty-related stories that have been posted here since Friday.
Yep, while you weren’t working, we were.
Then again, this really ain’t work.
It all started with a bolt-from-the-blue press release. The league has concluded that the Saints ran from 2009 through 2011 a system of payments to defensive players for, among other things, inflicting injury on opponents.
Coach Sean Payton knew about the program, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered it.
Bounties fueled the Saints’ 2009 playoff run. The Vikings, who lost to the Saints in the 2009 NFC championship after linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to whoever knocks Brett Favre out of the game, aren’t talking, but plenty of you believe the news taints the Saints’ Super Bowl win.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner’s final game included being blown up by former Saints defensive end Bobby McCray a week before the Vikings-Saints playoff. Warner nevertheless thinks bounties have been part of the NFL for a long time.
The NFL insists Saints owner Tom Benson didn’t know about the bounties. In what likely will be regarded in time as one of the great sports-related understatements, Benson issued a statement calling the findings “troubling.”
Williams has confessed, even though former Saints safety Darren Sharper apparently didn’t get the memo. In a statement issued through his new employer, the Rams, Williams called it a “terrible mistake,” and he said “we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.”
Which, by definition, means it wasn’t a mistake.
It’s also harder to accept the notion that it was a mistake, given allegations that Williams apparently ran a bounty program when he worked for the Redskins and the Bills. The league will investigate the situation in Washington.
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy told PFT on Friday night that the Titans had a bounty on Peyton Manning, whose ongoing neck problems possibly trace to a hit he took from the Redskins in 2006, under Williams.
The league says it’s not aware of bounties in any other cities, and former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs says he didn’t know about any of it in D.C. This means either that the investigators didn’t ask Williams if he used bounties before his time with the Saints, or that they asked him and he denied it. Regardless, they’ll be asking Williams about it on Monday.
Speaking of denials, the investigation regarding the Saints nearly died on the vine because everyone involved said it didn’t happen. Now that the league has found evidence that the bounty program did indeed exist, those who were dishonest to the investigators should face enhanced penalties.
Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis also apparently lied to owner Tom Benson, and Loomis definitely failed to put the practice to an end once Loomis was told to do so by Benson. The fact that Loomis reportedly won’t be fired for such a flagrant example of insubordination invites speculation that Loomis is simply covering for Benson.
Benson’s own punishment likely will consist of a hefty fine imposed on his team and a forfeiture of draft picks, even though the team traded in 2011 its first-round pick in 2012. (If the NFL really wants to punish the Saints, the league should take away its franchise tag.)
Lengthy suspensions are expected for Williams, Loomis, and coach Sean Payton, along with multiple players. The expected absence of key members of the organization as of Week One helps explain the team’s decision to volunteer for the Hall of Fame game, which will give them two extra weeks and one extra preseason game to get ready for the inevitable absence of people like Payton.
Some wonder whether a few extra dollars makes a difference to a highly-compensated pro football player. Apparently, it does. Which makes cash money the NFL’s equivalent of a helmet sticker.
Of course, helmet stickers don’t constitute taxable income. Cash money does, and the IRS could start poking around.
Other law-enforcement agencies could get involved as the situation unfolds. This story is far closer to the beginning than the end, and we’ll be following it every step of the way.
Now, get back to work.