NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of the New Orleans Saints looks on during warms up prior to playing against the Detroit Lions at Mercedes-Benz Superdome during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Former Buffalo Bills head coach Gregg Williams is in some very hot water after an NFL investigation found that the then-New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator administered a bounty payment system that rewarded his players for injuring opponents. The NFL released the findings yesterday following an investigation which detailed that between 22 and 27 defensive players participated between 2009 and 2011.
Payments made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries are against the Collective Bargaining Agreement and violate the NFL's salary cap. The more offensive charges 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 investigation showed that the total amount of funds in the pool may have reached $50,000 or more at its height during the 2009 playoffs. The program paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off" with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs, according to a press release from the league.
"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," Commissioner Goodell said. "The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.
"It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. 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."
The fund was overseen by Williams, who also contributed money to the pool along with the players. Williams was the Buffalo Bills head coach from 2001 to 2003 compiling a 17-31 record.
The Washington Post is also reporting that a similar system existed when Williams was the defensive coordinator of the Redskins. He was hired in Washington when he was fired as Bills head coach. It wouldn't be a surprise to hear that Bills players were also paid a bounty during Williams' tenure but for now, no reports exist indicating that took place.
"It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it," Williams said in a statement. "Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role."
"The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. Multiple reports indicate that the Saints could face much harsher punishment than was received following the New England Patriots' Spygate investigation. The Patriots lost a first-round draft choice on top of hefty fines for the organization and head coach Bill Belichick. It's unclear if the St. Louis Rams, who hired Williams this off-season, could face any consequences.