After conducting an investigation, the NFL announced Friday that from 2009-11, between 22 and 27 Saints defensive players were involved in an illegal "bounty" program that included rewards for injuring opposing players.
"It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "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."
According to the report, the players put money into a pool — which at one time may have totaled up to $50,000 — and payments were administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for things like interceptions and fumble recoveries. Players were also awarded $1,000 for "cart-off" hits (when an opponent had to be helped off the field) and $1,500 for "knockout" hits (when an opponent did not return).
The rewards were reportedly doubled or even tripled during the Saints' postseason run in 2009. Specific players were also targeted at times, "including Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings," Goodell said.
Saints owner Tom Benson issued a statement Friday in response to the findings of the investigation.
"I have been made aware of the NFL's findings relative to the 'Bounty Rule' and how it relates to our club," Benson said. "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."