Here are the details of the NFL’s bounty investigation

Former Falcons defensive line coach Bill Johnson posing with some of the Saints on the Falcons logo after a game in 2010.

Former Falcons defensive line coach Bill Johnson posing with some of the Saints on the Falcons logo after a game in 2010.

The New Orleans Saints, the reigning NFC South champs and longtime rival of the Atlanta Falcons, are in deep trouble with the league office.

The league released results of an investigation into the Saints’ practice of placing bounties on opposing players.

Former NFL executive Andrew Brandt expects that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be heavy-handed in dealing with the Saints.

“Everything [the] NFL does is strategic. Friday’s lengthy release sets up Saints’ suspensions, fines, loss of draft picks, etc. coming soon.” Brandt wrote in tweet.

Below are the league’s findings:

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

A New Orleans Saints cheerleader performs as San Diego Chargers tight end Randy McMichael (81, UGA) watches in the first quarter of their preseason NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

A New Orleans Saints cheerleader performs as San Diego Chargers tight end Randy McMichael (81, UGA) watches in the first quarter of their preseason NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

 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.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes during the second quarter. AP

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes during the second quarter. AP

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.

New Orleans Saints Tom Johnson tackles Atlanta Falcons Michael Turner for a short gain during 1st half action. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

New Orleans Saints Tom Johnson tackles Atlanta Falcons Michael Turner for a short gain during 1st half action. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

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.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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154 comments Add your comment

motorcityfalcon

March 4th, 2012
10:07 pm

‘Bounty’ sanctions must be severe to protect NFL’s image
At NFL.com

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:07 pm

Payton befriends the unjustly accused felon types because of Katrina.

He has a big heart, and bounties are for the children really, when you think about it.

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:11 pm

Peyton’s neck issues are because of a bounty?

Where’s the tape? The other proof?

who dat forever

March 4th, 2012
10:11 pm

Falcon fans, you guys think once the saeson starts next yearthis crutch you are leaning on will fall from under you. Capt-you believe that? Bottom line, we are making a run at the SB next year. Better DC, and a world class offense

FalconsElite

March 4th, 2012
10:11 pm

Do you guys think that Drew Brees new of the impending announcement and tried to take advantage of the situation by asking for 23 mil a year for the first three years. I laugh at all of the Breesus fans that thought he was going to take a home town discount. I could not dream this stuff up any better. LMFAO

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:12 pm

Rob Lowe said Peyton was retiring…

What does he have add on this bounty thing?

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:14 pm

Brees is just as greedy as almost all the rest of these overpaid punks.

Only a buffoon ever thought otherwise.

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:15 pm

Proof the Falcons never had any bounty on anybody was vividly on display in the last 4 yrs as we never came close to winning a playoff game, or tackling anyone on the opposing teams….

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

FalconsElite

March 4th, 2012
10:17 pm

With the loss of draft picks, current player suspensions and the whopper contract to come from Breesus you guys are going to be scouring the practice squads and looking for undrafted free agents. Carl nicks ain’t coming back and neither will Colston. I am waiting for the next dagger and that will be when Jimmy Graham’s agent starts looking for some more money. How about a raise from 500,000 to lets say 8 mil per season. The roof is on fire!!!

rivercard

March 4th, 2012
10:19 pm

If these bounties work so well, maybe Arthur and Smitty can start a playoff win bounty.

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:19 pm

Ole Bounty Benson!

You can bet he was in it up to his eyeballs!

phil

March 4th, 2012
10:22 pm

If we started a bounty, it wouldn’t work.

We’d forget to collect the money and forget who to go after.

falconsrus

March 4th, 2012
10:26 pm

CAPT-ATL

March 4th, 2012
9:42 pm
knock knock…..WhoDAT…..Roger Goodell, thats who!!

dats funny thats who dat

Ray Barone

March 4th, 2012
10:29 pm

Good. Commissioner should knock the Saints down a notch or two from their personal pedestals.

FalconsElite

March 4th, 2012
10:32 pm

When the news broke Friday, somewhere in Seattle, Marshawn Lynch new he dodged a bullet in that playoff game. He was quoted as saying he later found out that the Saints had a bounty in place on who could pull off the most Knutt sacks at the bottom of the pile but to his accord they never got him on the ground. I want to check my sources on this one to make sure I reported the facts.

Mike

March 4th, 2012
10:37 pm

Take the trophy away. That is how it is done in the Olympics.

JSS

March 4th, 2012
10:45 pm

On a serious point because some of you have gone off the deep end (not you Phil, you’re on roll); look at the Saints roster. Most of their defense has turned over or turning over this off season and the coaches (defensive) have moved on to other coaching gigs. Outside of the head coach and the GM, where are they going to strike for this vengeance most of you are crying for in punitive manners?

@ Ledbetter…
Considering how much the league screams about “competitive balance” will the punishment be in huge fines with rolling suspensions (how you do that keep the integrity of the roster or salary cap), or will be draft pick and restricting them in compensation pools? What’s your real guess?

Sheffield

March 4th, 2012
10:55 pm

you right phil..they love the saints…no punishment…I bet the house…Hope I am wrong

Blake

March 4th, 2012
11:01 pm

What do you think about this seenthisB4?

Blake

March 4th, 2012
11:02 pm

I hope Goodell and the league sock It to those defensive scumbags….

FalconsElite

March 4th, 2012
11:03 pm

It must be hard to see the computer with the bag on his head.

mrzizzle

March 4th, 2012
11:04 pm

This is why the Aint’s have no class! Drew Brees needs to watch his knees!

Anyone surprised?

March 4th, 2012
11:13 pm

From the city that has been the murder capital od the US for the last six years, is anyone surprised to learn of this thug-like, hired hit environment? Google what happened to the crime rates of cities that accepted Katrina evacuees. Again, anyone surprised?

hind tit

March 4th, 2012
11:20 pm

If the coaches knew about this and encouraged this then they are responsible and should be bared for life to ever coach in the NFL again. I predict a 500 season next year because of this. Just a hard hit will be looked at under a microscope and will change the defense into a very light hitting defense.

Will

March 4th, 2012
11:33 pm

18,000 documents.

Will

March 4th, 2012
11:33 pm

50,000 pages.

Will

March 4th, 2012
11:34 pm

Sean Payton knew and did nothing.

Jerryb1982

March 4th, 2012
11:34 pm

Just wait until the IRS gets involved for not reporting an employee bonus as taxable income!

Will

March 4th, 2012
11:34 pm

Loomis knew and did nothing.

CAPT-ATL

March 4th, 2012
11:46 pm

@anyone surprised? I thought it was 7 or 8? Oh well, they did set new high marks last year. While most cities declined per capita, they set a new record. On pass to break that in 2012. Some might say they where padding their stats. But Roger cant take that away from them!!

SawThat1nce

March 5th, 2012
12:48 am

Just goes to show, what a scum-bag operation the Saints are.
The saints former DC, current HC and GM should be suspended for the entire 2012 season starting now.
They should lose their first 5 draft picks this year.

SawThat1nce

March 5th, 2012
12:54 am

Goodell should fine himself also, for this crap.
The NFL zebras that work for him, have turned their heads to so many flagrant personal fouls that the saints have committed, it is disgusting.

True Falcon Fan

March 5th, 2012
7:30 am

So what’s wrong with a little ole fashion bench wagering during games, folks rest assured it’s happening NOT just with the ain’ts. Bring on the ain’ts 2012 season —- maybe this time we can beat them fair and square 2 times RIGHT —- probaBLY nope????????

TD has no clue!

March 5th, 2012
7:48 am

Sean Payton is just as guilty. He knew it was going on and did nothing about it.

fan

March 5th, 2012
8:18 am

please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic please pick plastic

it’s almost pathetic to watch saints fans try and defend this. almost. I, myself, am still laughing, and will be all season long as they implode. superbowl run? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Mako

March 5th, 2012
8:27 am

Buddy Ryan is the originator of all this mess, Williams, Fisher and others played for or work for good ole’ Buddy. Just wondering how much crap his 2 apples are promoting.

AlanFalcon

March 5th, 2012
8:34 am

It appears that the only decent Saint is the owner Tom Binson, the rest of the defense should be removed from the league, but then if you think about the life style of N………O. this type of football fits in, looserville.

BRAD

March 5th, 2012
8:37 am

This might be a little more serious than I first thought. An article on cnnsi.com, written by a lawyer, says that players could be charged with battery and coaches could be charged with conspiracy.

Double Zero Eight

March 5th, 2012
8:37 am

Expect something to happen to the Saints when Barry Bonds is
punished for his steroid use. In other words, don’t expect anythng
to happen other than a verbal reprimand.

We don’t have to worry about the Falcons being guilty of this.
Their inability to sustain a pass rush and tackle with consistency
precludes them from being guilty of this.

Larry

March 5th, 2012
8:38 am

I vote they vacate their Super Bowl victory and award the Lombardi to the Colts.

Who’s with me?

Larry

March 5th, 2012
8:40 am

TD has no clue!

March 5th, 2012
7:48 am

“Sean Payton is just as guilty. He knew it was going on and did nothing about it”.

Are you sure? He may have been high on Vicodin!

dawgfan

March 5th, 2012
8:52 am

If there’s any such thing as a “death penatly” in the NFL like there is in college these clowns deserve it.

Jason

March 5th, 2012
9:04 am

The Saints will not get away with this. Even if Rodger wanted to take it easy on them he can’t. He has to make an example of them.

Topdawg

March 5th, 2012
9:07 am

Make a statement Commisioner, do not allow the Saints to participate in the April player draft. That would be appropriate and would get the attention of the whole league. You might also prevent them signing any free agents this year. Talk about a statement!!!

bird

March 5th, 2012
9:32 am

Who blew the whistle on “bounty gate”?

BigTimeTECHFan

March 5th, 2012
9:35 am

And these are the same Saints players who were crying about:
Roddy White pushing a DB
Complaining about Dunta Robinson hits.

I always knew something was up with them, they played soft, then after the wistle ended the play they would do cheap shots.

1eyedJack

March 5th, 2012
9:49 am

If somebody would put a bounty on that Saints cheerleader in the picture I would “hit” on her and try to “take her out”. ;)

rash

March 5th, 2012
9:51 am

cheaters,scumbags the AINT’S need the superbowl trophy taken away i hope the worst for the poor sportsman ship of the AINT’S …..go falcons

E-Roll

March 5th, 2012
10:02 am

If you are interested and see one of the games that exposed the bounty program the NFL Network will be rebroadcasting the 2009 NFC Championship game between the Vikings and Saints at 3 pm today. Now that these actions have come to light you can look at this game again and really see the effort that was put into knocking Brett Favre out of that game.

I for one do not have a problem with a defensive player trying to knock the spit out of an offensive player because when I played offense it happened to me and believe me when I got a chance to knock the spit out of a DB I did it but the coaches and convicted felons participating in it is just a little too much.