Roger Goodell says bounty investigation of Redskins is not over

March 26, 2012

— NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the league has not stopped investigating allegations that the Washington Redskins and other teams besides the New Orleans Saints had bounty programs when Gregg Williams coached for them.

“We haven’t closed an investigation,” Goodell said at a news conference on the first day of the annual league meeting. “We have not stopped investigating. If we get information, we follow up on it. . . . We have not met with people that we will meet with as soon as these meetings are over. So we will continue. We have not said that everybody has got a free pass here.”

When the NFL announced harsh penalties last week against the Saints for paying cash bonuses to players for injuring opponents, the league said in a statement that it had found no evidence to corroborate reports that the Redskins and other teams had bounty programs involving Williams, the Redskins’ defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2007.

A person familiar with the situation said last week that the league’s active investigation of the Redskins and other teams was over but left open the possibility of taking future action if new information surfaced.

Redskins players and former assistant coaches said when results of the league’s investigation of the Saints were announced on March 2 that the Redskins had a similar bounty program when Williams coached for them. Former Redskins safety Matt Bowen wrote in the Chicago Tribune that such a bounty system existed under Williams when he was with the team.

Williams, now the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely last week for his role in the bounty scheme he administered as the Saints’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons. Saints Coach Sean Payton was suspended for an entire season. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for a half-season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games. The Saints were fined $500,000 and stripped of two second-round draft choices.

“Let’s be clear, and we discussed this with the clubs today: I think it’s fair to say that non-contract bonus payments have been happening around the league more frequently than we would like, and that is going to be discontinued,” Goodell said Monday. “The problem is those payments escalate and you get to what is more specifically referred to as bounties where you’re targeting players for injury.

“We have not found any evidence that that’s happening around the league where players, coaches or anybody else have identified players to take them out of a game. We will continue to follow up on any information we have. We will not resist anyone who comes forward with that. We will look for continuing violations and if we find it, we will aggressively pursue it,” Goodell said.

A spokesman for the Redskins declined to comment.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday that NFL owners support the penalties Goodell levied against the Saints.

“I think he has the full support of the membership with what his decision was, and he’s in the best position to speak to that,” Kraft said. “I don’t have all the facts.”

Disciplinary action against players involved in the Saints’ bounty program has not been announced yet. The league’s investigation concluded that the bounty system was primarily funded by players.

In another matter upsetting the league meetings, Goodell declined to comment on the salary cap hit imposed on the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, which the two teams are challenging via arbitration.

According several people familiar with the matter, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen addressed representatives of the other 30 NFL teams during one of Monday’s meetings. They argued that their teams’ actions violated no salary cap rules, those people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the league’s no-comment stance.

Representatives of the other teams discussed the case without members of the Redskins and Cowboys delegations present, they said, but were mostly unconvinced by the two owners’ arguments. Allen and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder also declined to comment Monday.

The NFL took $36 million in salary cap space over two years from the Redskins and $10 million from the Cowboys over the same time period. The league concluded that the two teams structured player contracts in 2010, when the league had no salary cap, to gain an unfair advantage when the salary cap was reimposed in subsequent seasons, people familiar with the case have said.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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