NEW YORK (The Sports Network) – The NFL Players Association said Wednesday it will conduct its own review of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, saying admissions by team personnel show they “engaged in improper and coercive activities.”
The NFL said last week that between 22 and 27 Saints defensive players, as well as at least one assistant coach, maintained an illegal bounty program from 2009-2011 that included payments to players for inflicting game-ending injuries on competitors.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now in the same position with the St. Louis Rams, has apologized for his involvement in the bounty program while reports have surfaced of similar activities during his stints as defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins and head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
On Tuesday, Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis released a joint statement taking “full responsibility” for the violations in the NFL’s report from last week.
In its release Wednesday, the NFLPA said it “negotiated vigorously to protect our players from coercive actions that compromise health and safety.”
“The current CBA contains detailed rules on what clubs and coaches can and cannot do in terms of practice schedules and places limitations on the amount of contact,” the NFLPA said. “These rules include how clubs and coaches can be punished for violations of those safeguards. The statements made by New Orleans Saints management and coaches confirm that they engaged in improper and coercive activities.
“We will vigorously protect the rights of all players. Until the facts are known, judgment based on reports in the media is speculative. That is why the NFLPA is undertaking a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding these reported violations of League rules. As part of this review, the NFLPA has requested that the NFL help facilitate interviews with members of New Orleans Saints management and coaching staff that were employed by the club in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“We recognize that this investigation was conducted over the course of many months. Accordingly, we have requested that the NFL provide us with sufficient time to complete our internal review as counsel to the players.
“If the facts prove that players voluntarily and willingly participated in conduct that jeopardized health and safety, we will work with them and the league to put in place additional safeguards to prevent this in the future. Dangerous play and acts on the field by players intended to injure have no place in football. We must do better to ensure that this activity is not a part of our game.”
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