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NFL inquiry uncovers bounty system

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NEW YORK (MCT) — An extensive investigation by the NFL has determined that as many as 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, organized a bounty system funded by the players and Williams during the 2009-11 seasons.

The investigation, conducted by the league's security department and details of which were released by the league Friday, found that the bounty system rewarded defensive players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that resulted in them being taken out of games.

The findings have been presented to commissioner Roger Goodell, who will hand out discipline that could result in fines, suspensions and the removal of draft choices.

"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," Goodell said in a statement. "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 Saints' players regularly contributed money into a pool and received payments based on their performance from the previous week's game, according to the league's investigation. Payments were made for interceptions and fumble recoveries, but also included payments for "cart-offs," in which a player was carried off the field, and "knockouts," in which players couldn't return to the game. Among the targets were quarterbacks Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings and Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals during the 2009 playoffs. The Saints won the Super Bowl that season.

The investigation indicated that the total amount of the bounty pool may have reached $50,000 or more during the 2009 playoffs.