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Posted at 05:01 PM ET, 03/02/2012

Saints’ bounty program: How widespread is the practice in the NFL?

Kurt Warner is helped off the field. (Dave Martin / AP)
Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL’s rule prohibiting bounties “promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity,” which means that the New Orleans Saints and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams are in a world of trouble after a league investigation revealed the team’s system.

Just how much trouble is not yet clear.

Does this diminish the Saints’ Super Bowl run, given that Williams promised “remember me” shots on opposing players — injuring Arizona’s Kurt Warner and Minnesota’s Brett Favre — during the playoffs.

What punishment should Williams, now defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, receive? Should he be suspended for a season? For longer?

What should happen to the Saints, particularly Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis?

And just how widespread is the practice in the NFL, at a time when player safety and concussions have never been bigger issues? Historically, there’s plenty of colorful evidence that it went on. Remember Jimmy Johnson vs. Buddy Ryan in 1989? (Video after the jump.)

Bounties were a hot topic for Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Will Mcdonough on CBS after the 1989 Thanksgiving “Bounty Bowl” between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles, coached by Ryan, won 27-0, and Johnson, then the Cowboys’ coach, said Philly was deliberately trying to hurt two players.

“I have no respect for the way Philadelphia played the game,”' Johnson said (via the New York Times) at the time. He said an Eagles assistant coach “told us last night, and it was verified by two players today, that there was a $200 bounty on Luis Zendejas and $500 on Troy Aikman. I will file a protest to the league office.” The league found no evidence of the bounties, but plenty of players were fined.

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H/T Fantasource

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