Report: NFL to probe Redskins

Updated: March 4, 2012, 6:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NFL will investigate claims that the Washington Redskins had a bounty program when Gregg Williams was the team's defensive coordinator, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The NFL on Friday said an investigation by its security department found that Williams and several New Orleans Saints players employed an illegal bounty system, financially rewarding defensive players for big plays, including knocking opponents out of games during the 2009-11 seasons. After details of the NFL's probe were released, five former Redskins, including defensive end Phillip Daniels, and a former coach told The Washington Post that Williams had a similar system with Washington.

The newspaper reported that it was unclear if the Redskins would be held accountable if the NFL determines the team operated a bounty program under Williams, when he was the team's defensive coordinator from 2004 to '07.

Matt Bowen, who also played for Williams in Washington, wrote about the bounty system in a column for The Chicago Tribune on Friday, saying that he didn't regret taking part in the program.

"You do what he (Williams) wants: play tough, push the envelope and carry a swagger that every opponent sees on tape. When you lined up against us, you knew we were coming after you. It was our gig, our plan, our way to motivate, to extra-motivate," Bowen wrote for The Tribune.

Daniels defended his Williams when he talked about the program with The Post.

"I think it is wrong the way they're trying to paint (Williams)," Daniels told the Post. "He never told us to go out there and break a guy's neck or break a guy's leg. It was all in the context of good, hard football."

Daniels told the Post it was his understanding that Williams started the "bounty" program with money collected from fines for players being late for practices and meetings.

Daniels told the Post the most money he ever received was $1,500 for a four-sack game against the Cowboys in 2005.

Two players told The Post that Greg Blache, who took over as defensive coordinator when Williams was fired in Washington, did not approve of the bounties and ended the program upon taking over. Blache, the Redskins' defensive line coach under Williams, declined comment when reached by The Post on Saturday.

Joe Gibbs told the newspaper that he was unaware the team had a bounty system when he was the head coach.

Meanwhile, former Buffalo Bills safety Coy Wire told The Buffalo News that Williams promoted bonuses for injuring opponents while he was the head coach in Buffalo.

"There was financial compensation," Wire told the newspaper, which also cited three other anonymous defensive players who confirmed the existence of a bounty program during Williams' time with the Bills.

In response to the Buffalo and Washington reports, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press the league will be "addressing the issues raised as part of our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of the game."

Aiello says the league would not comment on the reports of other teams' bounty systems. He added that the NFL will look at "any relevant info regarding rules being broken," saying that is "standard procedure."

Sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen on Sunday that Williams has been called to New York to meet with NFL security officials Jeff Miller and Joe Hummel on Monday for another round of dialogue pertaining to the alleged bounty violations. However, the specific nature of the visit is unknown and there is no set time for Williams to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell, though it is possible the two could talk while Williams is in New York, sources said.

The NFL said between 22 and 27 Saints defensive players were involved in the team's bounty program and that it was administered by Williams, with the knowledge of coach Sean Payton. In some cases, the amounts pledged were both significant and directed against a specific opposing player, including former quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, according to the league's investigation.

The findings, corroborated by multiple independent sources, have been presented to commissioner Roger Goodell, who will determine the appropriate discipline.

Williams, now the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator, apologized for the Saints' program in a statement released Friday.

"I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, (Saints owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the 'pay for performance' program while I was with the Saints," Williams said in the statement. "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again."

Goodell has advised the Saints that he will hold proceedings to determine potential discipline against the team and the individuals involved, and confer with the players' union regarding the appropriate punishment. That discipline could include fines, suspensions and the forfeiture of draft choices.

In the Saints' program, "knockouts" were worth $1,500 and "cart-offs" $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs. The NFL said the pool amounts reached their height of $50,000 or more in 2009, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Trevor Pryce, who played on the defensive line for the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, told The New York Times that bounty programs are common in the NFL, with players pledging cash to reward big plays in a game.

"It's pretty much standard operating procedure," the retired Pryce told the newspaper. "It made our special teams better. I know dudes who doubled their salary from it. Trust me, it happens in some form in any locker room. It's like a democracy, the inmates governing themselves."

Former Jets and Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, however, said bounty systems being rampant in the league would be news to him, telling The Times that he must have been playing "my whole career with blinders on."

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark took to Twitter, not to condemn the Saints' bounty program but to criticize the "snitch" that ended up causing trouble for the team.

"Whoever is snitching on the Saints D should be ashamed of themselves. No one was talking about the "bounty" when they got paid. #shame," he wrote.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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