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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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Robert Kraft: Tom Brady plans to play six or seven more years

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Tom Brady wants to give George Blanda a run for his money.

Blanda, the Hall of Fame Raiders kicker and quarterback, was the oldest player in NFL history when he played at age 48. Brady, who will turn 40 in August, hopes to play almost that long.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters today that he talked to Brady a few days ago, and Brady told him he plans to play six or seven more years.

It’s almost impossible to imagine that actually happening. Blanda was only a kicker by the end of his career, and no quarterback has played past age 44. The oldest player to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season was Warren Moon, who did it age 42. Athletes just don’t stay on top into their mid-40s.

Kraft also said he hopes his 64-year-old head coach, Bill Belichick, coaches into his 80s. So the Brady-Belichick combination will last for many more years.

Kraft will appear on Tuesday morning’s PFT Live.

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross explains “no” vote to Raiders’ move

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In a Phoenix hotel ballroom full of NFL owners voting yes, there was one dissenting opinion.

He then released a statement as to why.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was the lone “nay” cast on the Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas. That move was approved, the Raiders joining the likes of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to take up a Vegas residency.

The move, despite Ross’s vote, is expected as early as 2019.

“My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted,” Ross said in the statement, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I want to wish Mark Davis the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas.”

There has been a lot of relocation of late.

The Raiders became the second franchise to move in 75 days; Chargers owner Dean Spanos exercised his option to vacate San Diego for Los Angeles on Jan. 12. Less than 15 months ago, on Jan. 13, NFL owners voted in Houston to clear Rams owner Stan Kroeinke’s move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.

The Rams and Chargers will share a stadium in Inglewood. It is currently scheduled to open in 2019.

A reminder to Ross’s position on relocation came from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He tweeted Ross “spent $500M+ in private funds to renovate a stadium,” effectively keeping the Dolphins in Miami for decades to come.

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Derek Carr: Raiders “bringing a piece of Oakland with us”

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Appealing to fans in two different cities is a delicate balance following a franchise relocation, particularly when that franchise will remain in its current city for at least two seasons before migrating to its new one.

Derek Carr released a statement minutes after the Raiders’ relocation vote.

So far, so good.

The Raiders quarterback struck the right chord in his message, which he released on social media. This came after NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve the club’s relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas. It is the NFL’s third franchise relocation in 15 months and second in 75 days.

Carr wrote the Raiders will be “bringing a piece of Oakland with us” to Sin City.

Here is his statement in its entirety:

“As I sit here and see a vote that takes the Raiders to Las Vegas, I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Carr wrote. “I don’t know how we should feel. I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas. As players, we will show up and give everything we have. We will compete and we will do our best to bring a championship to the entire Raider Nation.

“While I am from California and would have loved playing in Oakland my whole career, I understand the business side of the NFL. It affects us all. Oakland, our team loves you, and my family and I love you. WE will be resilient and WE will stay together because that’s what true Raiders do. WE are loyal, even when it’s hard. WE stick together, especially when it’s tough.

“So Las Vegas, you can count on us bringing a piece of Oakland with us and you are getting a tough, loyal, and competitive fan base and team. When the time comes, I hope you are ready. For now, it’s about 2017 and our diehards in Oakland. God bless & Go Raiders!”

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Mark Davis: Could stay in Oakland through 2019 season

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Mark Davis was just given permission to move his team to Las Vegas, but said he could see staying in Oakland longer than his lease dictates.

The Raiders have one-year options on their lease in Oakland for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and Davis said Monday they could even stay beyond then while their building in Las Vegas is under construction.

While not everyone is going to be happy about those prospects, Davis said he’d be willing to offer refunds to angry fans who had already put down deposits for season tickets.

“Not happy, but we will do that,” he said.

But mostly, Davis seemed relieved to have the process finalized and to have a home, after so many years of negotiating in vain with the city of Oakland.

He said his father Al Davis “would be proud,” that he had taken the team to “the entertainment capital of the world.”

But for at least the next two seasons, and perhaps three, he’s going to ask his old fans in Oakland to support him.

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Seahawks “disappointed” by Trevone Boykin arrest

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Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested in Dallas on Monday morning after a car he was riding in backed into a bar.

Five people were injured and the driver of the car was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Boykin was arrested on marijuana possession and public intoxication charges, leading the team to make a statement about the incident.

“We are aware of the situation involving Trevone Boykin,” a team spokesman said on Twitter. “We are still gathering information and are disappointed.”

Boykin was also arrested in December 2015 while still at TCU after an incident at a bar before the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, which may have contributed to him going undrafted before the Seahawks signed him during the offseason. He eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of resisting arrest.

If the Seahawks’ disappointment level is high enough, the team may be in the market for a new backup to Russell Wilson in the later stages of free agency and/or the draft.

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Roger Goodell: Tough call, but no choice but to move

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still says the league doesn’t want teams to move.

But he said Monday the league had no choice.

For the third time in just over a year.

“You know that our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each of those teams and the league,” he said as he began his remarks on the “overwhelming” vote. “We’re all disappointed for Oakland and their fans.”

Goodell said all the right things about the effort to keep the Raiders in Oakland, and he brought Texans owner Bob McNair and Steelers president Art Rooney II to bolster his efforts, with Rooney saying it was good to have a stable home “for the long-term.”

After moving the Rams to Los Angeles and then sending the Chargers to join them, it’s a period of upheaval for the league, which has now abandoned a pair of California cities which couldn’t find stadium deals.

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Raiders’ move to Las Vegas approved

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The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas.

NFL owners today approved the move of the team from Oakland (where they’re playing in a rickety old stadium) to Las Vegas (where taxpayers will foot a large portion of the bill for a shiny new stadium). According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the vote was 31-1, with only the Dolphins objecting.

They won’t become the Las Vegas Raiders immediately, as the team plans to continue playing in Oakland at least for the 2017 season and probably for 2018 as well, while the new stadium is built. That will create an awkward situation where the home fans are cheering for a team that is about to pack up and leave.

But that has happened before in the NFL, and it will now happen again, and the reason is always the same: money. Raiders owner Mark Davis can make more green in Vegas than he could in Oakland, and so the Silver and Black is moving.

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Brandon Marshall: Vegas could overwhelm young players

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The NFL is expected to have a foothold in Las Vegas after a Monday vote on the Raiders’ bid to relocate to the city, so any concerns raised about putting a team there are likely moot at this point.

Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall still raised one after speaking to NFL owners about building relationships with players at the league meetings in Arizona. Marshall said that he thinks Las Vegas is a great city, but that the things that gave it the nickname of Sin City could prove problematic for young players.

“It can be a tough place for a player coming out of college,” Marshall said, via the Palm Beach Post. “It can be overwhelming for a young player.”

Marshall had his own difficulties in his early years in the league and there’s a no shortage of other players with similar stories, so trouble can obviously be found in every city if a player is looking for it. The potential for it in Vegas may be more front and center, however, and that’s something the Raiders may be weighing when they start acquiring players to play for them in their new home.

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$400 million swing likely cements Vegas deal

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As the league’s owners prepare to rubber stamp the eventual relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas, the deal in Nevada coincidentally became a lot sweeter only one day before the vote.

In addition to the stadium suddenly costing $200 million less (which never happens), word emerged on Sunday that another $200 million in public money will be available. That’s a $400 million swing, and it makes an already attractive package even more attractive, since it reduces dramatically the money the Raiders will need to borrow in order to get the deal done.

And so the conveniently-timed release of the information about the $400 million sweetener makes it even more likely that the Raiders will be getting the green light to go to the city where plenty of the suckers born every minute lose some of their own green every second.

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Report: Giants have some interest in former Jet Nick Mangold

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There could me a little more traffic moving from one side of MetLife Stadium to the other.

According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the Giants have expressed interest in bringing former Jets center Nick Mangold to the blue side of the stadium.

The 33-year-old center was released last month, after spending his entire career with the Jets.

And while he’s not as young as he used to be, Mangold would be an interesting addition to a line that is in some degree of flux. How they’d use him and incumbent center Weston Richburg would be interesting, but Mangold’s toughness and leadership might be what the Giants line needs most.

They’ve also brought in former first-rounder D.J. Fluker this offseason, which probably prevents them from moving Erick Flowers to right tackle as some have suspected might be the best plan.

The Giants have also dragged former Jets quarterback Geno Smith in as a backup, and spent heavily last offseason on heavy defensive tackle Damon Harrison.

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Jack Del Rio’s solution to speeding up games: Don’t throw so many flags

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The Raiders were flagged for an NFL-high 147 penalties last season, so Raiders coach Jack Del Rio may be slightly biased when he offers his solution to the league’s problem with slower-paced games.

Del Rio told Steve Wyche of NFL Network that he supports the NFL’s efforts to speed up games, and he thinks the best way to do it would be for the officials to let the players play.

“For them to try to move along the game, I’m all for it,” Del Rio said. “I have one suggestion:
Just don’t throw so many flags. We saw so many flags last year in Oakland, I’d like to see a lot less flags thrown. So hopefully we get that flow of the game issue.”

Del Rio believes penalty delays are a real issue for the NFL’s fans, especially younger fans.

“With the millennials and people nowadays, you’re not going to keep their attention if you have too many pauses and delays,” Del Rio said. “They want things right now. So for us to speed up the game, I think that’s smart.”

Throwing fewer flags might be smart. And it might benefit Del Rio’s team.

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Should Seahawks sign Kaepernick?

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The Seahawks have a backup to Russell Wilson in Trevone Boykin. Now that Boykin has been arrested, could the Seahawks be looking for another quarterback to serve as Wilson’s understudy?

If they are, there’s one available quarterback who would make a lot of sense — if he’s willing to suspend for a year his desire to be a starter.

Colin Kaepernick, as one source explained it to PFT, has very high regard for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. And we know that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has high regard for Kaepernick; Sherman recently opined that Kaepernick is better than 20 of the current starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

While that may be an exaggeration, the Seahawks have seen first-hand what Kaepernick can do with the right coaching and game planning. If/when Wilson gets injured, Kaepernick would definitely be a better option than Boykin, especially if Boykin’s arrest results in the team moving on from him the same way it moved on from Tarvaris Jackson following an arrest a year ago.

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Chargers announce 2017 season tickets are sold out

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The Chargers were on their way to a sellout of their season tickets for the 2017 season last week and they finished the job in the last few days.

The team announced on Monday that “all season tickets currently available” for their first season in Los Angeles have been sold. The Chargers began offering seats to existing season ticket holders in late February and opened sales to the general public on March 9.

The team will be playing at the StubHub Center, which will have the NFL’s smallest capacity at 30,000 seats.

In their announcement, the Chargers said that some tickets are being held back for players’ families, visiting teams and “promotional purposes.” They added that they could put more seats up for sale in the future if some of those seats are freed up as well as “from additional improvements at StubHub Center.”

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Oakland mayor asks for last-minute delay on vote

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NFL owners just walked into another round of meetings, and their decision on the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas seems imminent.

But Oakland mayor Libby Schaff is asking for a last-minute reprieve.

According to the Associated Press, Schaaf is asking the league for more time to negotiate for a stadium deal which would keep the Raiders in Oakland.

“Never that we know of has the NFL voted to displace a team from its established market when there is a fully financed option before them with all the issues addressed,” Schaaf said in a statement. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t do everything in my power to make the case for Oakland up until the very end.”

Unless she can make her way to the Arizona Biltmore Resort in the next few minutes, she might be too late. The league is expected to vote on the measure this morning, and everyone anticipates having well more than the 24 votes needed to approve the move.

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Browns to have Mitchell Trubisky in for workout on Friday

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The Browns didn’t send coach Hue Jackson or executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown to North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s pro day workout earlier this month because they planned to hold a private workout with him at another time.

They won’t be traveling to North Carolina for that workout either. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Trubisky will work out for the Browns at their facility on Friday.

Players typically aren’t allowed to work out during their visits to teams leading up to the draft, but there’s an exception for prospects who went to college or grew up nearby. Teams have a day set aside for those players to visit each year and Trubisky, who grew up in Ohio, will be part of the contingent in Berea on Friday.

The exception for local prospects also means that Trubisky’s visit doesn’t count against the limit of 30 that the team is allowed before the draft.

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