Today, the NFL revealed that during the playoffs Saints players and coaches maintained a "bounty" program funded primarily by players. Turns out Saints players had NFL rule-violating cash incentives to try to knock the grizzled gunslinger from the game.
UPDATE: Brett Favre responds to news the Saints put a bounty on his head
[jump] In a statement, NFL commish Roger Goodell said, "It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of the game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated."
The NFL's investigation revealed Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams administered the bounty program with the knowledge of other coaches, including head coach Sean Payton. Williams even occasionally contributed funds to the illegal cash pool.
Payments were not only made for plays like interceptions and fumble recoveries, but also for dirty "cart-off" or "knockout" plays where opposing offensive players either were helped off the field or were hit so hard they couldn't return to the game. Funds in the pool may have reached $50,000 during the Saints' drive to a Super Bowl title following the 2009 season, just in time for New Orleans to lay the hurt on Favre with their series of questionable hits.
Chris Kluwe, the punter for the 2009 Vikings, offered up the following tweet in response to the news:
Football's a violent game, but there's a difference between playing hard and playing to hurt someone. That shit is unacceptable.
NFL experts expect the league to dole out some stiff punishment to New Orleans for the illegal program. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted:
I mean seriously, think about it. You're talking about paying someone to INTENTIONALLY injure someone else. They put people in JAIL for that-- Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) March 2, 2012
Meanwhile, SI's Peter King -- comparing the likely punishment for bounty-gate to the league's decision to strip the Patriots of a first-round pick and some cash following a 2007 revelation that New England was using cameras to spy on an opposing team's defensive signals -- said he expects the NFL to inflict even harder punishment upon the Saints:
Discipline for the Saints could include fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft choices.-- Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2012
Here's an idea: The league can strip the 2009 Saints Super Bowl victory... and award the title to the Vikings. Unfortunately, it may be the Purple's best shot at winning a championship anytime soon.
In my opinion, the penalties on this will be worse, and maybe significantly worse, than Spygate.-- Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) March 2, 2012
-- Brett Favre joins Twitter, hilarity ensues