This could get ugly and costly: An investigation by the National Football League concludes that virtually the entire defense — players and some coaches — on the New Orleans Saints during the tenure of Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams participated in an illegal pay-for-performance program that included a "bounty" rewarded to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players. Williams' tenure was punctuated by three consecutive playoff appearances including a win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44.

ESPN and other outlets are reporting that the findings have been forwarded to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and that Goodell is likely to issue punishments ranging from fines and suspensions to forfeiture of draft picks.

According to a statement issued by the NFL, players and some coaches, including Williams, contributed money weekly to a pot that grew as large as $50,000. Following each week’s game, some players would be rewarded with proceeds from the pot based on such legal and praise-worthy plays as interceptions and fumble recoveries. But, the NFL contends, players also earned cash rewards for knocking opposing players out of the game. The NFL contends that Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis were aware of the allegations but did nothing to address them.

Saints owner Tom Benson says the team is cooperating with the investigation.

Read more here and here.

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