March 3, 2012

Bountygate Set To Sting Saints

Bounties placed by players and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on injuries to opposing players have the Saints' in the hottest trouble for an NFL team in recent memory.

Williams also reportedly ran a bounty program with the Redskins when he was the defensive coordinator there.  "22 to 27" defensive players on the Saints participated in the bounties, and MLB Jonathan Vilma reportedly put $10,000 in the bounty on Brett Favre in 2010.

According to the investigation, Saints owner Tom Benson told Mickey Loomis to put an end to the bounty program multiple times.  Loomis did not.  Similar to the pending Vicodin scandal, Loomis created more trouble by unsuccessfully orchestrating a coverup.  Interviewees denied early the existence of a bounty programs, so much so that the intestigation was closed.  It was re-opened last season with the reception of new credible information.

Only the Patriots' 2007 scandal of filming opponents rivals the trouble the Saints appear to be in.  ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote on Twitter Friday, "A safe prediction: Saints will be disciplined far worse than the Patriots were for Spygate."  The NFL has specific rules against player bounties.

The Patriots were punished with a $500,000 fine for head coach Bill Belichick and a $250,000 against the team. The Patriots also lost two draft picks under the following conditions: its first-round draft choice in 2008 if it reached the playoffs in 2007, or its second and third round picks if not.

NFL security compiled 50,000 pages during their three year investigation, which goes back to the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl XLIV run, which featured devastating hits on Arizona QB Kurt Warner and Minnesota QB Brett Favre.

Williams in a statement on Friday admitted and regretted the program:
I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the 'pay for performance' program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.

Former All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman wrote on Friday via Twitter:
Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever. A "Bounty" left me with a torn PCL and LCL in my knee check the 07' Titans game I was pissed I had to play in the pro bowl with that knee like that lol #Stillhere
ProFootballTalk writer and former attorney Mike Florio wrote on Saturday:
While the league can only do so much to its players in light of the CBA, the NFL can come down hard on Loomis and everyone else who lied to the league, including (presumably) former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Saints coach Sean Payton, former Saints defensive backs coach (and current Raiders head coach) Dennis Allen, and any other non-player who knew damn well what had been happening and . . . wait for it . . . LIED to the league about it.

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