The NFL has closed its investigation without finding evidence that the Redskins or other teams had bounty systems for big hits under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The league is leaving open the possibility of taking action in the future if it discovers new evidence, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made.
On Wednesday, the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Williams for their roles in a bounty system that provided that team’s players payments for hits that injured opponents or took them off the field.
When the NFL announced the results of its investigation of the Saints on March 2, numerous players and two coaches said the Redskins had a similar system when Williams was defensive coordinator between 2004 and 2007. Matt Bowen, who played for the Redskins’ defense during part of that period, wrote a first-person article in the Chicago Tribune describing the system of cash payments and how it escalated during the playoffs.
“We targeted big names, our sights set on taking them out of the game,” Bowen wrote. “Price tags started low during the regular season—a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knee. Chop him down and give a quick smile when you got back to the huddle. You just got a bonus.”
At the time, the league promised to investigate.
The NFL’s written announcement said: “While NFL staff has interviewed people in connection with public allegations of bounty programs at other clubs, no evidence was established showing that the programs at other clubs involved targeting opposing players or rewarding players for injuring an opponent. Commissioner Goodell emphasized that if additional information is brought to his attention that discloses bounties offered for injuring specific opposing players, he will revisit the matter to consider additional discipline.”
A league spokesman said the NFL would not comment publicly beyond its written statement on its investigation of the allegations involving the Redskins and other teams.
A person familiar with the league’s probe of the Redskins said NFL investigators did not speak to Bowen because he is a member of the media and the conversation likely would not have remained private.
Bowen declined to comment Wednesday. “I don’t really have anything further to say. I stand by what I wrote in the Tribune,” he said.
The person familiar with the NFL probe said the league’s investigators “talked to other people with the Redskins and [the NFL] could not corroborate any specific bounty program. Some people said, ‘It wasn’t like this. It was like that.’ So there were some different stories there.”
The person pointed out that the league’s lengthy investigation of the Saints stalled at one point before being re-started when new information surfaced.
“That’s what happened with the Saints,” the person said. “You never say you’ve closed the books on anything. New information could come out to change it. Gregg Williams has been dealt with, and you could say he was the main person involved [with the Redskins]. Right now, at this point, is there cause to punish the Redskins? No. Could that change? Yes. [But] the other question is: How far back are you going to go?”
Williams was suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints bounty system. Payton was suspended for one year, and Loomis was suspended for eight games, a person with knowledge of the sanctions said. The Saints were fined $500,000 and will lose two second-round draft choices, one in this year’s draft and one in 2013, according to a person with knowledge of the punishments.
More on the bounty investigation:
Mike Wise: Gregg Williams’s true nature exposed
Jason Reid: Bounties flourished in warped football culture