An NFL investigation has shown the the New Orleans Saints had a "pay for performance" plan in place from 2009 to 2011. The program was administrated by then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of head coach Sean Payton.
The investigation showed that Saints players received $1,500 for a "knockout" hit and $1,000 for a "cart-off" hit, with payouts doubling or tripling during the team's three playoff appearances.
A memo sent to clubs throughout the league included a statement on how Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma put up $10,000 cash as a bounty before a playoff game, a source familiar with the memo told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on the story:
The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for "performance," but also for injuring opposing players.
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.
Goodell said the investigation began in 2010 after allegations were made that Saints defenders had targeted Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during New Orleans' 2009 run to the Super Bowl.
The punishment is expected to be harsher than the punishment handed down to the New England Patriots for Spygate in 2007. The Patriots were found guilty of videotaping opposing teams and coaches during games, a direct violation of league rules.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the Patriots were forced to give up a first-round draft pick the following year. The punishment for the Saints, Gregg Williams (who is currently the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, for now) and Sean Payton should be more severe.
Like Goodell said, this involved "not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players." You're talking about not only affecting the integrity and possibly outcomes of the game (like Spygate), but also threatening the health and livelihood of opposing players. The punishment must be more severe.
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy claims Peyton Manning's neck injury can be traced back to a game against Washington in 2006. Here's Peter King from SI's Monday Morning Quarterback back in September:
Tony Dungy had an excellent observation on our Saturday night NFL special on NBC. He said Manning's neck history dates to Oct. 22, 2006, when his neck got wrenched and his helmet ripped off on a hit by two Washington defenders. We showed the highlight on our Saturday show, and Manning, after being hit and crumbling to the ground awkwardly, lay there for a second, and when he rose, he stretched his neck and shook his right arm for a second, as if trying to get the feeling back in it. ...
[Dungy said] "that's the year we started cutting back on his throws at practice. I'm not putting two plus two together. I just figure he's getting older and he needs some time off, he's made enough throws. But now, as I look back on it, there's no doubt in my mind that this was the start of his neck problems."
With all of this coming out, Gregg Williams will be lucky to have a job in the NFL next year. One thing is for sure: The Saints and Williams will be handed some of the stiffest penalties in NFL history.
This article is from The Hair of the Dog Sports Blog.
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