NEW YORK — New Orleans Saints players and at least one assistant coach maintained a bounty pool of up to $50,000 the past three seasons to reward game-ending injuries inflicted on opposing players, including Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, the NFL said Friday. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
The NFL said the pool amounts reached their height in 2009, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The league said between 22 and 27 defensive players were involved in the program administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, with the knowledge of coach Sean Payton.
Williams, now a defensive coordinator for the Rams, apologized for his role, saying: “It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong
while we were doing it.”
Punishments could include suspension, fines and loss of draft picks. The NFL said the findings were corroborated by multiple, independent sources during an investigation by the league’s security department.
Players contributed cash to the pool, at times large amounts, and in some cases the money pledged was directed against a specific person, the NFL said.
The NFL found no evidence of similar bounty programs in the league, but four Redskins told The Washington Post that Williams had a similar system as defensive coordinator for the team.
Three of the players described a coach who doled out thousands of dollars to defenders who measured up to Williams’ scoring system for rugged play, including “kill shots” that knocked stars out of a game.
Of the four players interviewed, only Philip Daniels, a former defensive lineman, was willing to be quoted on the record. He defended Williams’ coaching. Daniels is now the team’s director of player development.
The Redskins declined to comment through team spokesman Tony Wyllie.
The league absolved Saints owner Tom Benson of any blame, but said the investigation showed Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew about the bounty program.
When informed about it earlier this year, the NFL said, Benson directed Loomis to “ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately.” However, the NFL’s report said the evidence showed Loomis did not carry out Benson’s directions, and that in 2010 Loomis denied any knowledge of a bounty program.
Benson responded to the report by saying he was aware of the findings and that the team had offered its “full cooperation.”