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The full statement from the league on the Saints’ bounty program

[Editor’s note:  Due to confusion and contradictions and misinformation regarding the March 2 announcement by the league that the Saints had violated NFL rules through the use of a bounty program, it makes a lot of sense to post the full text of the league’s release.  It probably would have been smart to do it Friday.  But it would have been dumb to not do it now simply because I now realize I should have done it then.  And so the full text of the release from the NFL appears below, without edits or omissions.]

A lengthy investigation by the NFL’s security department has disclosed that between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as at least one assistant coach, maintained a “bounty” program funded primarily by players in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the NFL announced today.

The league’s investigation determined that this improper “Pay for Performance” program included “bounty” payments to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that would result in them being removed from a game.

The findings – corroborated by multiple independent sources – have been presented to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will determine the appropriate discipline for the violation.

“The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,” Commissioner Goodell said. “The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.

“It is our responsibility to protect player 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 players regularly contributed cash into a pool and received improper cash payments of two kinds from the pool based on their play in the previous week’s game. Payments were made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but the program also included “bounty” payments for “cart-offs” (meaning that the opposing player was carried off the field) and “knockouts” (meaning that the opposing player was not able to return to the game).

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 paid players $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.

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.

The NFL has a longstanding rule prohibiting “Non-Contract Bonuses.” Non-contract bonuses violate both the NFL Constitution and By-Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Clubs are advised every year of this rule in a memo from the commissioner. Citing Sections 9.1(C)(8), and 9.3(F) and (G) of the Constitution and By-Laws, the memo for the 2011 season stated:

“No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his team’s performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players).”

“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,” Commissioner Goodell said. “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. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”

The additional investigation established the following facts:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. The bounty program was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other defensive coaches. Funds were contributed on occasion by Williams.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Commissioner Goodell has advised the Saints that he will hold further proceedings to determine the discipline to be assessed against individuals and the club. This will include conferring with the NFL Players Association and individual player leaders regarding appropriate discipline and remedial steps.

The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. Any discipline may be appealed as provided for in the Constitution and By-Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreement. Any appeal would be heard and decided by the commissioner.

Commissioner Goodell also advised the Saints that he is retaining jurisdiction and reserving his authority to impose further discipline if additional information comes to his attention.

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12 Responses to “The full statement from the league on the Saints’ bounty program”
  1. colt2011 says: Mar 5, 2012 9:26 PM

    That just about says it all. Sharper needs to read this, refresh his memory. 22-27 defensive players omg. These are the facts. 18,000 documents totalling over 50,000 pages. Wow. Sounds like a very lengthly, thorough and COSTLY investigation. Lots of lying and coverups. Really deplorable. Saints are in trouble and Williams won’t likely be doing any head hunting with his buddy Fisher in St. Louis. Doubt they’ll want this kind of bad publicity in RamsLand. Disgraceful conduct, but I’ll be watching NFL football 4ever, might avoid Saints broadcasts for awhile.

  2. sdisme says: Mar 5, 2012 9:42 PM

    So basically this year (2012) Benson directed his general manager, Mickey Loomis, to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately.

    Other than not retaining Gregg Williams Mr. Loomis did nothing, despite the season being over. D

  3. scomibord says: Mar 5, 2012 9:59 PM

    Inquiring minds want to know just how many cart-off payments were made. With the bevy of information they claim to have, tell us who, what, when, where and how. All sounds like a lot of posturing by goodell. “Player safety” being his main concern, why is he trying to force an extra 2 games per season on them? Don’t they expose themselves to injury enough?

  4. paulieorkid says: Mar 5, 2012 10:37 PM

    One thing to consider regarding Gregg Williams: since it is well known what pleases Gregg Williams — players probably don’t need the pocket change system anymore.

    If a player under Williams wants to make Williams happy, and be much more likely to remain gamefully employed — injure offensive players, especially elite quarterbacks and high value targets.

  5. guppies66 says: Mar 5, 2012 10:48 PM

    I applaud Goodell and the NFL for what looks to be a tough stance. However, as I read this and put together what it means, the NFL is not going nearly far enough.

    Based on these non-disputed facts: …
    *Gregg Williams was an employee of the Saints.
    *Gregg Williams admits that he coordinated the bounty program.
    *NFL finds that not only did Williams coordinate the bounty program, but said Saints’ employee also paid into the bounty fund.
    *The bounty fund paid players for “knock-outs” or “cart-offs”.
    *Players who get knocked out and/or carted off are likely to have their careers adversly affected by the underlying injury as related to the knock-out and/or cart-off.
    *Any player/person who knowingly participates in a plot/program designed to reward members for injurious knock-outs and cart-offs, is an intentional participant in adversely affecting another players career.
    *Injuries which adversely affect an NFL player’s career, have a great financial impact, not only on that player, but on numerous related business and non-business entities (ex. their families who depend upon them for support, their teams for their specific athletic skilll set, their insurers who pay for their rehabilitation and potential future disability, etc.).

    …the Saints and/or the NFL face an increasing set of potentially harmful consequences including:

    *Continued escalating lawsuits by former players of their employers for not adequately protecting them, even though the sport has an inherent ‘assumption of the risk’ defense (especially now that those who were injured while a bounty was in effect were victims of an intentional act, for which the ‘assumption of the risk defense’ will not work)
    *Lawsuits from the insurance providers who were required to pay the otherwise unnecesary medical expenses incurred due to the injury brought about by the intentional acts of an NFL team’s employee
    *Possible IRS investigations and/or criminal charges (stemming from the conspiracy to intentionally cause bodily injury to another)

    Conclusion: it is practically a forgone certainty that an NFL team paid it’s players to intentionally injure an opponent, and in some cases, a specific player. To position itself such that they are viewed as not only not condoning such tortious actions, but also that they are the biggest advocate against such actions, the NFL must immediately permanently ban anyone who actively participated in bounty programs in question, and severly punish (minimum 1 year suspensions personally and multi-year highly punitive franchise sanctions) those who were periferally involved.

    Going forward, to minimize their own risk/cost of the certainly forthcoming lawsuits, the NFL must make it clear to all “members of the NFL family” (owners, current players, all other league employees – including those of affiliates such as NFLN) that they must not say anything which is harmful or contradictory to the NFL’s top priority of player safety, including especially a bounty program which intentionally seeks to injure their players. And to do so will result in termination for cause.

  6. mrslay1 says: Mar 6, 2012 12:41 AM

    Anyone really think that Benson was/is ignorant of what was/is going on?

  7. sterlingsaint says: Mar 6, 2012 12:41 AM

    “There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.”

    Such a vague statement because including the word ‘effective’ changes the dynamic of it.

    Of course it wasn’t effective, that’s hindsight. What if Loomis clearly instructed them to stop, then Gregg Williams hid it well enough from Loomis’ vigil.

    Now the NFL has an inside snitch on this matter, something Loomis clearly wasn’t privy to.

    Can we hold off on calling for Loomis’s to be fired until we more details on what he did or didn’t do to stop Gregg Williams.

  8. monkeesfan says: Mar 6, 2012 6:55 PM

    Here are the facts –

    The Saints played to beat their opponents, they played to beat up their opponents. The people screaming that what they did goes too far are wrong, and people like Gerry Callahan need to stop citing injured ex-players as though they prove the game is so savage as to be unsurvivable. The plethora of ex-players who lead good lives indicates otherwise.

    It’s called TRUSTING IN THE TOUGHNESS OF THE PLAYERS. Clearly Roger Goodell does not understand these are NOT weak children, they are men.

  9. vetdana says: Mar 7, 2012 6:48 AM

    Those documents of 50000 pages and the interviews could have revealed more than one snitch.Loomis instructed his GM to ” Cease & desist the bounty program….Which he promptly ignored. HE LIED TO THE NFL Investigators and was caught.In any organization that I am aware, these are grounds for immediate termination !This went on for at least 3 years & probably more.If this is happening League wide, as many ex players have attested, then we have a serious credibility gap with the lawsuit’s filed against the NFL by former players who claim they were not aware of the long term effects of NFL play on their health !A jury is going to have a heyday with this testimony & I am glad that I am not the attorney trying to convince them of the NFL’s culpability.This whole business is real dirty and must be dealt with an iron hand or this whole emphasis of the last few years on player safety is going to be considered a sham & you can be sure Roger Goodell is not going to have his “Legacy” go up in smoke ! This is going get very interesting when the punishment phase is exercised !

  10. monkeesfan says: Mar 7, 2012 11:52 AM

    The whole business is Roger Goodell STILL does not understand the game over which he presides. The punishment will be severe because Goodell is moralistic and bullying, and the whole emphasis on “player safety” is treating the players like children, not as men.

  11. marrytothegame205 says: Mar 7, 2012 12:44 PM

    Roger Goodell continues taking all the fun and excitement away from the game. “knockouts” are apart of football thats what the fans pay their money to see. I mean come on we might as well make this a flag football game with all the rules and regulation to the league. Where’s the evidence? where the reciept? where is the witness? John Elway gave Tim Tebow a bonus for his production in the win over Steelers. Goodell say he concern about the player safety but treating them as children. Players play to WIN!! This game is a tough sports and if you prepare for it turn in jersey for a aprin because this game isn’t made for you.

  12. momar3000 says: Mar 7, 2012 9:47 PM

    At first I thought they were talking about taking ppl out via straight injury, such as diving at a knee or something. A “knockout” or a “cart-off” could happen from a legal hit. Hell, Ray Lewis hit Mendenhall totally legally and he f’in broke his shoulder and knocked him out the whole year. That is football. If they have specific evidence that they were paying 1000 for someone to spear Brett Farve with a helmet shot, then fine that’s not right. But that is the individuals interpretation in the game and this doesn’t seem to address that.

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