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Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:36 pm
 

Dungy traces Manning's injury to Williams' D

In this photo from Oct. 22, 2006, Manning loses his helmet after getting hit in a game against the Redskins(Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams apologized Friday evening for his part in the team's "pay for performance" bounty program that rewarded players for injuring opponents. In fact, one NFL source told CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman that linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered up $10,000 to any teammate who knocked then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game.

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Freeman says to expect more leaks in the coming hours and days.

(Apparently, Williams had a similar program when he was with the Redskins; a former player told the Washington Post that compensation ranged from "hundreds to thousands of dollars" with the biggest payout thought to be $8,000.")

One story we should expect to hear more about: Peyton Manning. He missed the 2011 season with a chronic neck injury, and he's probably taken his last snap for the Colts. Back in September, Tony Dungy, Manning's former coach who now serves as an NFL analyst for NBC, traced Manning's neck issues to a 2006 game.

The opponent? The Redskins. And the defensive coordinator? Yep, Gregg Williams.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote about Dungy's remarks in his Week 1 Monday Morning Quarterback column:
Dungy had an excellent observation on our ... NFL special on NBC. He said Manning's neck history dates to Oct. 22, 2006, when his neck got wrenched and his helmet ripped off on a hit by two Washington defenders. We showed the highlight on our Saturday show, and Manning, after being hit and crumbling to the ground awkwardly, lay there for a second, and when he rose, he stretched his neck and shook his right arm for a second, as if trying to get the feeling back in it.

"Earlier in the game,'' Dungy told me, "I'm outraged that there was a flag for roughing-the-passer on Dwight Freeney for just grazing the quarterback's helmet. So I'm yelling at the ref [Scott Green], 'Where's the flag! Where's the flag!' And I don't yell much, but I did then. So I didn't notice Peyton calling timeout and being shaken up. Peyton came to the sideline and said to [backup] Jim Sorgi, 'Jim, start warming up.' As the timeout went on, he said to us, 'I can stay in, but we need to run the ball here.' ''
Former Colts president Bill Polian told King that Manning was fine at the end of the 2010 season and had "no recurrence of the neck problems that caused his first surgery after the 2009 season."

In January 2010, a week before the Saints faced the Colts in the Super Bowl, Williams (by then New Orleans' defensive coordinator) was asked about some controversial hits on Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game.

“Here’s the deal," he said. "When you put too much of that type of worry on a warrior’s mind, he doesn’t play all out. If it happens, it happens. And the only thing you’d like for me to say is that if it happens you hope he doesn’t get back up and play again.”

Williams may have been sincere when he apologized Friday, but the remarks above makes them seem less geniune. More than that, you might think that the only reason Williams is sorry is because he got caught.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 6:07 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Gregg Williams: Bounty 'was a terrible mistake'

We'll let you decide what Vilma and Williams were discussing here. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Twenty-four hours ago, the biggest problem facing the Saints was that they were roughly $5 million apart per season on a new contract for franchise quarterback Drew Brees. And while that's still a huge issue, it's taken a back seat to the revelations Friday that at least one Saints coach and about two dozen players conspired to intentionally hurt opponents and knock them out of games for money.

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
The coach: former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who served in that capacity under head coach Sean Payton for the 2009-2011 seasons, including New Orleans' Super Bowl title in February 2010. Williams left the Saints for the same job with the Rams in January after St. Louis hired Jeff Fisher (who Williams had worked with in Tennessee).

On Friday, hours after the NFL announced the Saints' "pay for performance" bounty program, Williams spoke on the matter:

“I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the 'pay for performance' program while I was with the Saints," Williams said in a statement released by the Rams.  "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.”

It's nice to own up to your problems, but this doesn't appear to be an isolated incident. Details via Mark Maske of the Washington Post:

"The Washington Redskins had a bounty system for big hits on opponents under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that was similar to the one revealed by an NFL investigation of the New Orleans Saints, four players who played under Williams said Friday," Maske wrote.

"Three of the players described a coach who doled out thousands of dollars to Redskins defenders who measured up to Williams’s scoring system for rugged play, including 'kill shots' that knocked opposing teams’stars out of a game."

“You got compensated more for a kill shot than you did other hits,” one former player said. Compensation ranged from "hundreds to thousands of dollars" with the biggest payout thought to be $8,000."

Wow.

Now that Williams has apologized, what happens next? More specifically: does owning up to it before the NFL weighs in lessen the punishment he'll face?

The short answer: who knows. We're not being glib but if commissioner Roger Goodell is anything he's unpredictable. The league has been criticized in the past for coming down hard on players but less so on coaches and front-office types. But early indications are that New Orleans' "pay for performance" bounty program is much worse than Spygate, and the sanctions could reflect that -- especially if Williams has a history of this behavior.

But it's one thing to punish the Saints; what happens if the Rams lose their defensive coordinator for any length of time?

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:30 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 4:10 pm
 

NFL: N.O. had bounty program to injure opponents

According to the NFL, New Orleans coach Sean Payton didn't try to stop the bounty program, while owner Tom Benson, center, did try but ultimately failed.  (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

In a stunning announcement, the NFL has released the news of an investigation into a team-wide bounty program in New Orleans in which at least one coach and about two dozen players conspired to intentionally hurt opponents and knock them out of the game for money.

Between 22 and 27 players, and at least one assistant coach maintained this “pay for performance” bounty program, violating league rules in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

And the knowledge of the program reaches all the way into the owners box. Saints owner Tom Benson -- who was cited by the league as giving his “immediate and full cooperation to investigators” -- told general manager Mickey Loomis to end the program immediately when he became aware of it in 2011. According to the NFL, “the evidence showed that Mr. Loomis did not carry out Mr. Benson’s directions. Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010, he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged that he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.”

According to the NFL, the funds of the bounty pool -- to which players regularly contributed and which was administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the Rams -- might have reached as high as $50,000 during the 2009 playoffs. If a player knocked out an opponent, they received $1,500. If an opponent had to be taken off on a cart, a player was paid $1,000. Those payouts could double or triple during the playoffs.

“Our investigation began in early 2010 when allegations were first made that Saints players had targeted opposing players, including Kurt Warner of the Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Vikings,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals. At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.” 

The NFL also found that coach Sean Payton was not a direct participant in the bounty program but that he didn’t make an attempt to learn about it or stop it when NFL investigators began asking about it.

Now, it’s up to Goodell to dole out the possible punishment. He has told the Saints that he will hold more proceedings and meet with the NFLPA and individual player leaders to discuss the appropriate discipline.

The league notes that “the discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. … Any appeal would be heard and decided by the commissioner.”

Said Goodell: “The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players. The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.

“It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.”

Here's Benson's statement on the matter: "I have been made aware of the NFL's findings relative to the 'bounty rule' and how it relates to our club. I have offered and the NFL has received our full cooperation in their investigation. While the findings may be troubling, we look forward to putting this behind us and winning more championships in the future for our fans."

For what it's worth, here is one of the last attempts of Warner's career.



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Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:57 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 2:36 pm
 

Rice, Goldson, Campbell latest to be tagged

Rice will make $7.7 million in 2012 assuming he signs Baltimore's franchise tag. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

Ravens running back Ray Rice, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson and Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell are the latest players to be offered franchise tags by their respective teams.

-We named Rice the top free agent running back in our latest rankings, but we also never expected Rice to reach the open market.

Rice apparently wants an Adrian Peterson type contract, and considering Peterson signed a seven-year deal worth $100 million before last season, Baltimore doesn’t necessarily agree with Rice’s assessment of his worth. As CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson wrote, a deal that mirrors Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams’ five-year, $43 million deal is probably more appropriate. Assuming he signs the tag, Rice will make about $7.7 million for 2012.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”

-As we told you a few days ago, the 49ers planned all along on placing their franchise tag on Goldson.

"By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012,”  San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement.

Goldson and his then-agent Drew Rosenhaus apparently turned down a five-year contract worth $25 million from San Francisco last year, and Rosenhaus convinced Goldson he could get him a contract closer to what Chargers safety Eric Weddle (five years, $40 million) had signed.

But that obviously didn’t happen, and Rosenhaus was forced to OK a one-year, $2 million deal for Goldson. It makes sense, then, that Rosenhaus no longer works for Goldson -- who will make $6.2 million in 2012.

-Campbell was the No. 3 defensive end on our free agent rankings list, and the move to tag him by Arizona was expected.

"We’ve made no secret of the high regard in which we hold Calais,” said Cardinals general manager Rod Graves. “To be clear, reaching a long-term deal that will keep Calais with the Cardinals for years to come remains our primary objective.  This move today allows us the opportunity to continue working with Calais and his agent toward that goal and that’s exactly what we will do.”

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:24 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 1:35 pm
 

Perrish Cox not guilty of sexual assault charges

CoxBy Josh Katzowitz

Former Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox, on trial for two counts of sexual assault, has been found not guilty of both charges.

As the Denver Post reports, the jury deliberated four hours on Thursday and a little more than two hours Friday before making its conclusion that Cox was not guilty of sexual assault on a victim unable to assess her condition.

If he was convicted of the felonies, Cox could have faced life in prison. One charge required the state to prove Cox had sex with the woman and that she was "physically helpless and the actor knows the victim is physically helpless and the victim has not consented." The other count required the state to show Cox knew "that the victim [wa]s incapable of appraising the nature of the victim's conduct."

According to the AP, the alleged victim let out an audible sigh and a cry and said, "Oh my God, what's happening?" before rushing out of the courtroom.

Cox is a free agent and now is free to sign with any team.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 12:50 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Saints offered to make Brees highest-paid player

Did Brees really turn down Mickey Loomis' offer to make him the highest-paid NFL player? (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

With the report Thursday that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees are $5 million per year apart on contract negotiations, CBSSports.com’s Larry Holder has the news that New Orleans offered Brees a contract before the 2011 season that would have made him the highest-paid player in the NFL and that Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, turned it down.

“He (general manager Mickey Loomis) offered Brees the highest paid contract in NFL history,” a source told Holder. “Does that not equate with great or elite?”

NFL News, Notes
In a Yahoo Sports report Thursday, Jason Cole cited multiple sources that said that Loomis was trying to devalue Brees by saying only he is a “very good” quarterback as opposed to a “great” one.

Cole also speculated that Saints owner Tom Benson might have to step into the negotiations to make sure both sides were satisfied with a new contract. New Orleans, of course, could franchise tag Brees, but Brees obviously wouldn’t be happy with that decision.

Plus, that would make it tougher for the team to keep guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston if the only way for the Saints to avoid sending Brees to free agency was to tag him.

As CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman wrote, “What the hell are the Saints doing? I've said this before. There are certain players, only a handful, where you open the vault and roll out the cash. You give them a blank check. Brees is one of those players. Franchising Brees is going to anger him, no question. Players despise the tag because it limits their earning potential. So you've ticked off your best player. For what? Why?”

But now we have to wonder why Brees and Condon would turn down the richest deal in the league and what they expect to actually get in return for Brees playing.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 12:19 pm
 

Packers net about $67 million from stock sale

Green Bay stockBy Josh Katzowitz

You can always count on the Packers owners to make sure their team has enough money to help pay for whatever improvement projects need to be financed for Lambeau Field. And I’m not talking about the owners who actually have a vote in how the team is run.

No, I’m talking about the Packers fans, who bought more than 268,000 shares of stock the team put on sale to help pay for a proposed $143 million expansion of Lambeau. Paying $250 apiece for the stock certificate (plus $25 for handling) that gives them a non-voting ownership stake in the team, the Packers raised about $67 million from the sale.

And while we can debate how much value Green Bay fans are receiving from plunking down that much money for one share of “worthless” stock -- and really, I’m not sure there’s any convincing those fans that this is anything but a great deal -- there’s little doubt that Packers fans are some of the best fans in football. Because they so willingly donate their money to the team so they can, in fact, be a part of that team.

NFL News, Notes
Mark Murphy, the team president and CEO, called the results of the sale “humbling and overwhelming” and “just unbelievable” and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The stock sale really allowed us to borrow less and gave us much more flexibility.”

About half of the new sales came from the state of Wisconsin, but states like Illinois (8.5 percent of the total sales), California (8.5 percent), Minnesota (5 percent) and Texas (5 percent) certainly made their contributions known. Even Canada got into the act, as that country’s citizens bought 2,000 shares.

In all, the paper reports that the team added 250,000 new stockholders, bringing the overall total to 360,000 -- more than the combined populations of Madison and Green Bay, Wis.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:48 am
 

Farrior's time with Steelers comes to a close

After a decade in Pittsburgh, Farrior will be released. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Yet another longtime Steelers player is done in Pittsburgh. That’s the word from agent Ralph Cindrich, who tweeted Friday morning that his client, linebacker James Farrior, will not be back with the Steelers in 2012.

“#JamesFarrior has been a rock for the #Steelers but the #Turk takes no prisoners -- he's gone,” wrote Cindrich.

The move to release the 15-year veteran who spent the past 10 years in Pittsburgh (he started his career with the Jets in 1997) is only the latest Steelers casualty as the team tries to get under the salary cap so it, we assume, can sign receiver Mike Wallace to a deal.

Already, Pittsburgh has released defensive end Aaron Smith and cleared the roster spot formerly taken by receiver Hines Ward, and as CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson points out, linebacker Larry Foote and nose tackle Casey Hampton also are on the potential chopping block.

Since he landed in Pittsburgh in 2002, Farrior has been a consistent force, recording at least 100 tackles in nine of the next 10 seasons. But his production fell off a bit last year, and at the age of 37, he clearly is slowing down. Farrior was due $2.825 million in 2012, the last year of his contract.

And at this point, you have to wonder if Farrior is done altogether from the game.  

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com