The 49ers were learning a new offense, complete with an entirely new set of protection packages.In the first exhibition game just two weeks after the opening of training camp, the 49ers faced a veteran Saints defense under the direction of coordinator Gregg Williams.The Saints immediately smothered 49ers quarterback Alex Smith with blitzes off the blind side. The 49ers had every reason to be astounded at the Saints' classless and dangerous approach to the first game after the lockout.Now, it makes a little a more sense.
NEWS: NFL: Saints engaged in 'bounty' program
The NFL on Friday announced the Saints defense maintained a "bounty" program in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.The league announced that a "lengthy investigation by the NFL's security department has disclosed that between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as at least one assistant coach" were involved in the illegal activity."The league's 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 NFL announced.Williams administered the bounty program with the knowledge of other defensive coaches, the league's investigation found. Williams occasionally contributed funds, according to the report.There was no mention in the report of Smith or Colin Kaepernick -- or any other 49ers players -- being targeted as part of the Saints' bounty program. Smith and Kaepernick took a beating in the exhibition opener but avoided injuries.
"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," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.Goodell will determine the appropriate discipline for the violation, the league stated. The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. Goodell would also decide any appeal.In January, Williams joined the NFC West, as new coach Jeff Fisher hired him as St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator.REWIND: With Williams' move, NFC West got more interesting
The 49ers also faced the Saints twice in the regular season and one more time in the playoffs during the time frame in which the bounty system was in place. The 49ers sustained no known significant injuries due to any illegal hits.Coincidentally, 49ers safety Donte Whitner knocked running back Pierre Thomas from the game with a legal helmet-to-helmet hit that caused a fumble early in the 49ers' 36-32 victory in an NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park.