Skip to content

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.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, New Orleans Saints

Packers add WR Gerrard Sheppard

Baltimore Ravens Rookie Camp Getty Images

In the NFL’s lone successful waiver claim Wednesday, the Packers added first-year wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, according to the league’s transactions.

Sheppard (6-2, 211) had been waived by Baltimore on Tuesday. The 23-year-old Sheppard signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and earned a spot on the club’s practice squad as a rookie. Sheppard played collegiately at Connecticut (2008-2010) and Towson (2011-2012).

Sheppard’s addition gives the Packers 11 wide receivers, 10 of whom can practice, as rookie wideout Jeff Janis is on the non-football illness list. The move also puts the Packers at the 90-player roster limit.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jim Harbaugh annoyed with questions about Aldon Smith

jimharbaugh AP

The 49ers didn’t have linebacker Aldon Smith at practice today because Smith was in Los Angeles, dealing with the fallout from an April incident in which he was accused of making a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport. Coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.

As reporters questioned Harbaugh, he was having none of it. Here’s the transcript:

Is LB Aldon Smith here today?
“No.”

He’s in Los Angeles?
“What’s that?”

He’s in Los Angeles for his meeting there?
“He’s not here today.”

You can’t say where he is?
“No. Is that my responsibility to tell you where he is?”

You’re the head coach of the football team.
“Yeah, OK. Well you seem to already know. He’s going through a process.”

Then there’s a couple of places he could be. New York being one of them, Los Angeles being the other. He’s in the latter.
“OK. I don’t know if that was a question or a statement?”

Harbaugh answered five follow-up questions without providing reporters with any relevant information. Bill Belichick would be proud.

Permalink 9 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jones: Cowboys “committed” to keeping Dez Bryant “for life”

Stephen Jones AP

Tyron Smith might not be the only young Cowboys star cashing in.

Team vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys were “working hard” to get a long-term deal for wide receiver Dez Bryant done next.

We’re totally committed to make Dez a Cowboy for life,” Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Our plans from Day 1, . . . figure a way to get Dez and Tyron extended.”

The 23-year-old left tackle signed an eight-year extension which will keep him with the team through the 2023 season.

Bryant, 25, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and will make $1.78 million this year, but Jones wasn’t going to speculate on when anything might happen.

“I don’t guess on when things get done,” he said.

The only certainty is that when it happens, it will be big. Although getting Smith done now allows them the possibility of using the franchise tag, giving them a bit of starting-point leverage.

 

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jim Leonhard reunites with Mike Pettine in Cleveland

Jim Leonhard AP

Safety Jim Leonhard said recently that he had spoken to the Packers about coming aboard for the 2014 season, but the Wisconsin native never reached agreement on a deal with the team.

He won’t have to leave the Midwest to play football this year, though. Leonhard tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that he has signed a contract to play for the Browns.

The move reunites Leonhard with Browns coach Mike Pettine, who was an assistant on Ravens, Jets and Bills teams that featured Leonhard. That year with the Bills came in 2013, when Leonhard started seven times and played all 16 games for a defense coordinated by Pettine. Leonhard had 41 tackles and four interceptions in Buffalo.

With that kind of familiarity and a thin group of backup safeties, the late start to camp shouldn’t hurt Leonhard much. Donte Whitner will hold one starting safety job for the Bills and Tashaun Gipson is pencilled in alongside him, although Leonhard could change that if Pettine decides to go with what he knows come the regular season.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bengals CB Chris Lewis-Harris suspended two games

Chris Lewis-Harris AP

The NFL has suspended Bengals cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris for the first two games of the 2014 regular season under the league’s substance-abuse policy, the team said Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Lewis-Harris appeared in six games for Cincinnati in 2013, recording three tackles. He’s vying for a reserve role with Cincinnati, which is deep at cornerback.

Lewis-Harris can play in exhibition games, but the earliest he can return to an active NFL roster is Monday, September 15.

A Tennessee-Chattanooga product, Lewis-Harris is one of 10 cornerbacks on Cincinnati’s roster.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cassel, Bridgewater begin even split of first-team reps

Bridgewater AP

The Vikings have a trio of quarterbacks about whom offensive coordinator Norv Turner periodically has raved.  With camp in full swing and the preseason games approaching, Turner has officially narrowed his focus to a pair of finalists for the Week One starting job.

Via multiple reports, veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater have begun equally splitting first-team reps, with former starter Christian Ponder working exclusively with the reserves.

It’s unclear when a starter will be picked.  Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live, tight end Kyle Rudolph said that he and the other pass catchers prefer that a decision be made as soon as possible, so that the pass-catchers can focus on working with the guy who’ll be throwing the passes when the season begins.

For more from Rudolph, click the thing in the thing below.

Permalink 19 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Gordon’s appeal is indeed all or nothing

Cleveland Browns v St. Louis Rams 8-8-2013 Getty Images

Despite a belief in some league circles that the person designated to handle the appeal of Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s one-year suspension can split the proverbial baby by imposing a suspension somewhere between zero and 16 games, the NFL characterizes the substance-abuse policy in a way that makes clear the absence of discretion.

“The disciplinary penalties were negotiated by the NFLPA and NFL more than 20 years ago and there has never been a proposal to change them,” NFLPA spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT via email.  “When they were first established, the union expressed the strong view that they needed to be stated and mandatory to ensure that all players be treated the same regardless of position, experience, level of ability, or competitive considerations.  On appeal, the hearing officer’s responsibility is to determine whether the violation was established and, if so, he is bound by the agreed-upon sanctions.”

For players in Stage III of the program, a positive test automatically triggers a one-year suspension.

For Gordon, then, only two options exist:  full-year suspension or no suspension at all.

If the terms of the policy are applied as written, Gordon could indeed be facing a one-year suspension, no matter how unfair or heavy-handed or otherwise wrong.  Or maybe the hearing officer will, consciously or otherwise, broaden the lens and consider the reaction to a one-year suspension for Gordon versus a mere two-game suspension for Ray Rice and his far more heinous conduct.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Brandon Browner gets heated at Patriots practice

Brandon Browner AP

The Patriots signed Brandon Browner this offseason because he’s a big, physical cornerback capable of keeping wide receivers from doing exactly what they want while running their routes.

On Wednesday, the Pats offense got an up-close view of how Browner makes that happen. Browner shoved wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins to the ground after a pair of plays that saw the duo matched up one-on-one and then got into a shouting match with receivers coach Chad O’Shea that ended when other members of the team separated the two.

Browner said afterwards that he came into practice with the mindset of being more aggressive after the defense “gave up a few easy balls” in Tuesday’s session. He said that he and O’Shea “hugged it out” after practice and explained why he thought the scrapes would make for a better team.

“It gets us both better,” Browner said, via CSNNE.com. “Guys on the other side of the ball, it’s what [opponents are] going to do in guys in games. And it’s what they’re going to do to me in games … That’s my style of play. Play aggressive. You don’t want to cost your team any penalties, but we’ll let the officials do their job.”

Browner will have to cool his jets for the first four games of the regular season while serving a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, leaving the Patriots to hope that his summer work helps his teammates enough to make the absence less of a hindrance for the defense.

Permalink 23 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

John Harbaugh: I’m proud of Ray Rice for how he’s handled it

johnharbaugh AP

The Ravens are continuing their public support of Ray Rice, the running back whose two-game suspension for a domestic violence incident has been widely criticized.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said today that he continues to support Rice and believes that Rice is making the most of a bad situation.

“I love the way he’s handled it,” Harbaugh said. “I hate what happened. What happened was wrong, flat out. The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterwards by acknowledging that it was wrong and he’ll do everything he can do to make it right. That’s what you ask for when someone does a wrong thing. So I’m proud of him for that, from that standpoint. And for anybody out there who’s going to misconstrue that and just write, ‘John Harbaugh is proud of Ray,’ then shame on you. I’m proud of him for the way he’s handled it, OK? Disappointed in what happened, but you go forward. You know, you go forward. That’s what we’re going to do as a football team, and that’s what we’re going to do as an individual, he’ll do as an individual.”

Although Harbaugh was careful to explain that he means he is proud of the way Rice has responded since his February arrest, and not that he condones what Rice did to result in the arrest, that distinction may not change the fact that some people simply don’t want to hear the Ravens continuing to support Rice publicly. The Ravens’ full-throated support of Rice has — like the NFL’s two-game suspension — struck many as insensitive to victims of domestic violence.

Harbaugh declined to talk about the backlash to the suspension, which has been widely decried as an indication that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t grasp the seriousness of domestic violence.

“There’s no way I’m going to comment on the length of it, but I know this: Those that make those decisions do so with great seriousness. They aim to be just and fair and they aim to do right by all parties involved,” Harbaugh said.

But Harbaugh did say that he thinks opening the season without Rice will be tough for his team to overcome.

“It’s going to be tough for us,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be two games without one of our very best players. But we’ll move forward and deal with it. Beyond that, there’s really nothing else to say.”

Harbaugh may have nothing left to say, but Rice is expected to address the media on Thursday. His comments will surely be scrutinized by those who believe Rice has yet to show genuine remorse — and who believe both the Ravens and the NFL have been far too supportive of Rice.

Permalink 37 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Colts guard Donald Thomas leaves practice early

Joe Reitz, Donald Thomas AP

The Colts need to do a better job of protecting quarterback Andrew Luck, and that job didn’t get any easier today.

According to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, guard Donald Thomas is believed to have re-injured his quadriceps, and left the practice field early. He’s expected to have an MRI to determine the severity.

Thomas played just two games for the Colts last year before tearing his quadriceps tendon, sending him to injured reserve. The rehab process also kept him from participating in OTAs this year.

The Colts signed him to a four-year, $14 million deal last offseason, and haven’t gotten much of a return on that investment.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tyron Smith’s 10-year deal is “nuts”

Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

It’s hard to say that a guy who signed an eight-year contract reportedly worth $98 million made a mistake.  But in the NFL, where the player is far more bound to the deal than the team, left tackle Tyron Smith apparently has given the Cowboys near-unilateral control over the balance of his career.

“There’s no way you can do a deal that long,” a league source with extensive experience negotiating player contracts told PFT.  “I’m stunned. . . .  10 years is nuts.”

The extension reportedly places Smith under contract for a total of 10 years at a payout of $110 million.  He’ll have no power to get more money, no matter how well he performs.  And if he doesn’t perform well, the only security he’ll have is the fully-guaranteed money that he received when committing himself to the Cowboys for the next decade.

The full details eventually will be known, and we’ll get a chance to see just how team friendly the contract is.  Unless every year of the contract is fully guaranteed (and if it were, that detail would have been leaked), the mere duration of the deal makes it a bad one for the player — who apparently wanted to do a contract badly enough that he was willing to make a commitment that, for nearly all NFL contracts, never is mutual.

Apparently, the Cowboys knew how badly Smith wanted that new contract, and the Cowboys took full advantage of it.

Permalink 28 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

PFT on NBCSN takes closer look at 49ers, Patriots, more

Tom Brady AP

Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN delves into a potential Super Bowl matchup that has never actually happened — 49ers vs. Patriots.

This year, it could.  Which would mean New England quarterback Tom Brady would be going against the team he cheered for as a child.

He’s far from being a child now, and he’s 10 years removed from his last Super Bowl ring.  The 49ers are 20 years removed from theirs.  So today’s poll question asks which of the two is more likely to get a crack at another title to cap the 2014 season.

Tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET.  And stick around for Fantasy Football Live at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Manziel takes a training-camp detour to a tavern

Manziel AP

Before the draft, Johnny Football was all about football, working out and studying and spending every waking moment getting himself ready to be as attractive as he possibly could be for an NFL team.

After the draft, Johnny Football became Johnny Vegas and Johnny Bieber and Johnny Rolled-Up-Hundy and everything but a guy who was all about football.  That supposedly was going to change once training camp opened, with Manziel buckling down and focusing on becoming the best football player he can be.

And so on the night before the first day off at training camp, Manziel reportedly was spotted at a bar roughly two miles from the team’s headquarters, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

As Ulrich points out, the behavior goes against the notion that “Work Hard, Play Harder” would yield to “Work Hard, Work Harder” once camp opened.  It also contradicts the prediction of former Texas A&M teammate Mike Evans.

“In training camp, I don’t think he’ll go out at all,” Evans said in June.  “He’ll be committed and devoted and fighting for a starting job.”

The photo posted online at BustedCoverage.com shows nothing controversial or even all that interesting.  It’s a dude at a bar with a “crap, I think someone may be taking my picture with a camera phone” look on his face.

It’s only an issue because Manziel’s lifestyle and the team’s evolving reaction to it — from “we don’t care” to “tone it down” to “we’re alarmed” — creates a potential connection between Manziel’s actions away from the field and the Browns’ willingness to allow him to take the field in games that count.  Especially with most of the organization seemingly ready to drive Brian Hoyer down to Canton this weekend for inclusion in the new class of Hall of Famers.

Permalink 54 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Fred Jackson signs one-year extension with Bills

Fred Jackson AP

Bills practice was halted on Wednesday when some nasty weather rolled through the area, but some members of the organization were able to make good use of the unexpected free time.

They were able to put the finishing touches on the announcement of a one-year extension for running back Fred Jackson. Jackson was entering the final year of his contract, which is set to pay him a base salary $2.45 million. There were no financial details announced by the team.

Jackson’s role for the 2014 season is a bit unclear with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon joining Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the backfield. There’s been talk that the 33-year-old may be slated for a more limited role than he’s played in the past, but the extension suggests he’s still very much in the Bills’ plans now and in 2015.

Brown and Dixon are also signed through next season, but Spiller has a player option for 2015 that he’ll likely pass on exercising if things go well this year. Jackson’s extension could give the Bills more flexibility in dealing with any negotiations that may be coming with Spiller, especially if the Bills decide to follow recent trends and allocate less money at running back than at other positions.

Permalink 21 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Alex Smith will end contract talks if they’re a distraction

Alex Smith AP

The Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith apparently haven’t gotten anywhere on a new contract, and Smith said Wednesday there will come a point when they’ll stop trying.

“You’re getting to the point where either way, you want it to stop being a distraction,” Smith said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “You guys know how I feel about this, and it’s the truth. . . .

“You’re finally gonna cross a line where it’s like, it’s just football from here on out and I’m done not only talking about it with you guys, but even behind the scenes as well. “We talk about eliminating distractions and that’s a part of it. The focus needs to be on ball.”

He didn’t specify when that time would be, saying: “No, no hard line. At some point mentally it will come for me where it’s like ‘OK, it’s over’ and let’s just focus on the season.”

Perhaps he should adopt the Bugs Bunny strategy of negotiating, but for now, his talking about it is just a gentle reminder that he’s ready to talk.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top