In case you missed it yesterday, the NFL announced the results of a comprehensive investigation into allegations that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty program that was administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. What the league found is quite amazing, not necessarily because of what went on, but because the Saints apparently did such a poor job of keeping it all off the record.
Here's the gist of the findings:
The New Orleans Saints appear to be in violation of some major NFL rules. According to the NFL, between 22 and 27 Saints players and at least one assistant coach participated in a bounty program from 2009-11, which was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Williams is no longer the Saints defensive coordinator but head coach Sean Payton was aware of the program.
I'm not going to spend too much time criticizing the Saints because the consensus seems to be that stuff like this takes place all around the league. Former NFL safety Matt Bowen, who played for Williams in Washington, wrote an entire article about how bounties are common, and Lions safety Chris Harris, who is set to become a free agent next month, tweeted this:
@daringantt doesn't surprise meEveryone does it they're just the ones who got caught. It's part of the NFL culture— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisNFL) March 2, 2012
This sort of reminds me of "spygate" in the sense that the New England Patriots were probably not the only team taping signals, but they were the only team to get caught doing it. Similarly, it's pretty clear that bounty programs have gone on in more than just New Orleans, but the Saints are the only team (so far) to get caught.
To those in the NFL, the findings don't appear to come as much of a surprise. To some fans, that is also the case. However, this story is a big PR problem for the NFL when you consider the idea is out there that players are being promised extra money under the table if they injure opponents. Obviously there's more to it than knocking players out of games, but considering how much focus there has been on player safety, it's a PR nightmare for both the league and the NFLPA.
Much like spygate, the expectation is for the NFL to come out and send a message that bounty programs are not okay by delivering a big-time punishment to the Saints. Most people seem to think the punishment will make spygate look like child's play, and Jay Glazer reports that it will be determined in the next few weeks. It sounds like fines, suspensions and the loss of draft picks are all in play as possible aspects of the punishment.
For more on this story, make sure to check out SB Nation's StoryStream, which has been tracking all of the latest updates to this news.