NFL says Gregg Williams ran bounty program with Saints

The NFL announced today that the New Orleans Saints engaged in a bounty program under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that involved more than 20 defensive players.

The program, which was allegedly in place from 2009 to 2011, paid defensive players cash for big hits on opponents, according to USA Today. Most of the money was provided by players and then distributed by Williams. There was more than $50,000 in a pool during the 2009 plays and players were paid $1,500 for a knockout and an extra $1,000 if a cart was used to remove a player from the field. Money doubled or even tripled in the playoffs, and players were also paid for big plays.

The payments are in violation of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement

"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for performance, but also for injuring opposing players," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated."

The Saints could be in serious trouble because the NFL says the Saints failed to cease the program when general manager Mickey Loomis was ordered to do so. Speculation is the league could come down hard on the organization.

"I have been made aware of the NFL's findings relative to the "Bounty Rule" and how it relates to our club,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “I have offered and the NFL has received our full cooperation in their investigation. While the findings may be troubling, we look forward to putting this behind us and winning more championships in the future for our fans."

This isn’t a surprise and rumors of this type of activity are more widespread than many would believe. It remains to be seen if Williams, now the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, could also face sanctions. Saints coach Sean Payton could also be entangled in the mess.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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