The league announced today that the New Orleans Saints have violated the “bounty rule” in 2009, 2010, and the 2011 season. 

From Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network:  "Goodell said the investigation began in 2010 after allegations were made that the Saints' defenders had targeted Arizona Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Brett Favre during their 2009 run to the Super Bowl.

"Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals," Goodell said. "At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”

More specifically, the NFL has concluded that between 22 and 27 defensive players along with at least one assistant coach maintained a “bounty” program.  Funded primarily by players, it is said the program may have reached $50,000 or more during the 2009 Playoffs.

The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl that season.

Statement by Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints:

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2012

"New Orleans – I have been made aware of the NFL’s findings relative to the “Bounty Rule” and how it relates to our club. I have offered and the NFL has received our full cooperation in their investigation. While the findings may be troubling, we look forward to putting this behind us and winning more championships in the future for our fans."

Commissioner Roger Goodell will impose discipline.  To date, the punishment has not been determined.

The league’s release says that the program was administered by former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and that it included payments for inflicting injuries that resulted in players being carried off the field ($1,000) and/or knocked out of the game ($1,500).

Also stated in the release is that coach Sean Payton may not have been directly involved in the program, but was aware of.  GM Mickey Loomis has also been implicated and it is suspected that he may have lied to owner Tom Benson about the existence of the program and/or failed to follow Benson’s directive to end it.

 It should come as no surprise that this news is being released during the portion of the week where humiliating news stories go to die.