49ers

NFL: Saints engaged in 'bounty' program

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NFL: Saints engaged in 'bounty' program

Over the past three seasons -- a period which included games with the 49ers and Raiders -- the New Orleans Saints participated in a "bounty" program, the NFL announced Friday.

There are no specific allegations of bounty activity on the part of the Saints in any of the games that included Bay Area teams, but the program -- administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other defensive coaches -- was definitely in place.

The Saints played at Candlestick Park in the NFC Divisional Playoff game on Jan. 14 of this year and in San Francisco's 2010 home opener, on Sept. 20. The 49ers also faced the Saints in the 2011 preseason, on Aug. 12.

MAIOCCO: 49ers faced Saints three times in 'bounty' era

The Raiders hosted the Saints in the 2011 preseason, on Aug. 28.

NFL press release
A lengthy investigation by the NFLs security department has disclosed that between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as at least one assistant coach, maintained a bounty program funded primarily by players in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the NFL announced today.

The leagues investigation determined that this improper Pay for Performance program included bounty payments to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that would result in them being removed from a game.

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

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 players regularly contributed cash into a pool and received improper cash payments of two kinds from the pool based on their play in the previous weeks game. Payments were made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but the program also 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.

The investigation included the review of approximately 18,000 documents totaling more than 50,000 pages, interviews of a wide range of individuals and the use of outside forensic experts to verify the authenticity of key documents.

The NFL has a longstanding rule prohibiting Non-Contract Bonuses. Non-contract bonuses violate both the NFL Constitution and By-Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Clubs are advised every year of this rule in a memo from the commissioner. Citing Sections 9.1(C)(8), and 9.3(F) and (G) of the Constitution and By-Laws, the memo for the 2011 season stated:

No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his teams performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players).

Our investigation began in early 2010 when allegations were first made that Saints players had targeted opposing players, including Kurt Warner of the Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Vikings, Commissioner Goodell said. Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals. 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.

The additional investigation established the following facts:

1. During the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the players and other participants involved used their own money to fund a Pay for Performance program. Players earned cash awards for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries. They also earned bounty payments for cart-offs and knockouts. All such payments violate league rules for non-contract bonuses.

2. Players were willing and enthusiastic participants in the program, contributing regularly and at times pledging large amounts. Between 22 and 27 defensive players contributed funds to the pool over the course of three NFL seasons. In some cases, the amounts pledged were both significant and directed against a specific opposing player.

3. The bounty program was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other defensive coaches. Funds were contributed on occasion by Williams.

4. Saints owner Tom Benson gave immediate and full cooperation to the investigators. The evidence conclusively established that Mr. Benson was not aware of the bounty program. When informed earlier this year of the new information, Mr. Benson advised league staff that he had directed his general manager, Mickey Loomis, to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately. The evidence showed that Mr. Loomis did not carry out Mr. Bensons directions. Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010, he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged that he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.

5. Although head coach Sean Payton was not a direct participant in the funding or administration of the program, he was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue.

6. There is no question that a bounty program violates long-standing league rules. Payments of this type even for legitimate plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries are forbidden because they are inconsistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and well-accepted rules relating to NFL player contracts.

Commissioner Goodell has advised the Saints that he will hold further proceedings to determine the discipline to be assessed against individuals and the club. This will include conferring with the NFL Players Association and individual player leaders regarding appropriate discipline and remedial steps.

The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. Any discipline may be appealed as provided for in the Constitution and By-Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreement. Any appeal would be heard and decided by the commissioner.

Commissioner Goodell also advised the Saints that he is retaining jurisdiction and reserving his authority to impose further discipline if additional information comes to his attention.

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch received the text message Wednesday from Dr. Tim McAdams that might have come as a surprise to many of the teams that passed on linebacker Reuben Foster during the draft.

The 49ers’ team physician declared Foster’s surgically repaired right shoulder is ready to play football. The 49ers are scheduled for their first practice of training camp on Friday, and Foster will be a full participant.

“We feel great about our doctors, our medical program here,” Lynch said on Thursday, as the 49ers reported to training camp. “Our trainer, Jeff Ferguson, is as good as there is in the league. Dr. McAdams, world-renowned. He has the Stanford name behind him.

“We challenged him numerous times. From his observation, the shoulder was good.”

Foster’s tumble to the back end of the first round was widely blamed on his shoulder condition. The 49ers traded with the Seattle Seahawks to select Foster with the No. 31 overall pick. Almost immediately, the 49ers were scrutinized for making the selection.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported some teams did not even consider drafting Foster. One “well-placed source with knowledge of the injury” told Schefter that Foster’s surgery “didn’t take.”

The 49ers’ willingness to clear Foster for the first day of camp is a reality that appears to be in stark contrast to the opinions around the league that Foster’s shoulder would require additional surgery. The 49ers expect Foster to be ready Sunday for the first padded, contact practice of training camp.

“We pride ourselves in doing all of our due diligence, not afterward, but before we make the decisions,” Lynch said. “We’d done exhaustive research on Reuben Foster in a lot of different areas. Medically was one area.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he the nature of Foster’s injury convinced him that even the worst-case scenario, in the big picture, was not so bad. Foster sustained a torn rotator cuff in Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington and played the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

“I was proud of our doctors for putting themselves out there and giving their honest opinion about what they felt,” Shanahan said. “They feel it is healed, and it’s going to be good. I respect them for doing that. They went against the norm on that, and that isn’t always easy.

“(I’m) pretty confident when it is a shoulder injury, if it doesn’t heal the right way or it’s done wrong, you have to re-do a surgery, yes, it’s time, but it’s not going to affect the guy we saw on tape.”

John Lynch concerned about 49ers' top pick Thomas

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AP

John Lynch concerned about 49ers' top pick Thomas

On April 27, the 49ers selected Solomon Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

As of Thursday afternoon, he remains unsigned.

49ers general manager John Lynch addressed the media on Thursday and was asked about the defensive lineman's status.

Thomas missed most of the 49ers' offseason program because NFL rules stipulate that rookies who have not completed their undergraduate degrees are ineligible to join on a full-time basis until after their schools' final classes of the spring semester.

Stanford's late schedule put Thomas a little behind schedule.

“We have our iPads, so I’ll be able to watch film from that,” Thomas said in mid-May. “I talk to Josh (Garnett) quite a bit, and he’ll give me advice on how to go through this process – how to stay in touch, just keep learning along the way and keep progressing along the way.”