Interesting news coming out of the NFL today. As per a press release, a lengthy investigation by the NFL's security department has disclosed that between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as at least one assistant coach, maintained a "bounty" program funded primarily by players in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Also according to that release, the players regularly contributed cash into a pool and received improper cash payments of two kinds from the pool based on their play in the previous week's game. Payments were made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but the program also included "bounty" payments for "cart-offs" (meaning that the opposing player was carried off the field) and "knockouts" (meaning that the opposing player was not able to return to the game).
The program paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off" with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.
Kurt Warner, who took a big hit in his final NFL game against the Saints in the 2009 NFL Playoffs, weighed in on Arizona Sports 620 radio:
"It's definitely disappointing, but I won't say that I'm completely surprised," Warner told Burns & Gambo of Arizona Sports 620 in Phoenix. "And, again, not necessarily the Saints, but I'm not surprised that there were teams out there doing those kinds of things behind closed doors."
Though some people might just chalk this up as a part of a violent game, it's expressly prohibited in the CBA, so the Saints could face a stiff punishment.
The NFL has a longstanding rule prohibiting "Non-Contract Bonuses." Non-contract bonuses violate both the NFL Constitution and By-Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Clubs are advised every year of this rule in a memo from the commissioner. Citing Sections 9.1(C)(8), and 9.3(F) and (G) of the Constitution and By-Laws, the memo for the 2011 season stated:
"No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his team's performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players)."
It will be interesting to see what action Roger Goodell takes with this one. As per Kurt Warner, when asked about the hit and whether or not it ended his career, he responded:
"No, absolutely no. It was a nice exclamation point on it."