The NFL Players Association announced Wednesday it would launch its own investigation into the New Orleans Saints’ illegal bounty program.
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The Saints are bracing for what is expected to be one of the harshest penalties ever imposed on an NFL team for its illegal payouts, whereby players were offered cash incentives for injuring opponents.
"Until the facts are known, judgment based on reports in the media is speculative," read the players union’s statement. "That is why the NFLPA is undertaking a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding these reported violations of league rules."
The NFLPA announced its intent to interview members of the Saints management and coaching staffs that were employed by the organization from 2009 to 2011.
According to the NFL, as many as 27 players participated in the bounty program implemented by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during the three-year period.
The illegal cash pool reportedly awarded $1,500 for knocking out an opposing player and $1,000 for inflicting an injury resulting in an opponent getting carted off the field.
"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," the NFLPA said.
"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."
Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, issued an apology last week for his role in the payouts. The 53-year-old defensive coach met with NFL officials in New York Monday to discuss the matter.
The NFL began an investigation into the alleged payments in 2010 after the Saints were accused of targeting quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre during New Orleans’ run to Super Bowl XLIV.