Brees denies knowledge of bounty program

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees says he has never participated in and was never aware of a “real” bounty program, and there would be no place for players being provided incentives to intentionally injure one another in any sport.

The NFL has said former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran an improper pay-for-performance pool, which offered bonuses for big plays as well as big hits that forced opposing players from games or left them needing help to leave the field.

In a letter posted on his foundation’s website Friday night, the Saints’ star quarterback says fans should reserve judgment until more is known about the league’s bounty probe.

“I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence,” Brees said. “I have spent the last several years as an Executive Committee Member of the NFLPA making health and safety a priority and I am proud of the advancements we’ve made and will continue to make.

“We are all working diligently to find the truth in this matter and if the facts prove there was improper behavior, we will hold ourselves accountable. Until that time, we will stand together and remain united as an organization.”

The record-setting quarterback had been noticeably silent on the bounty issue.

Williams, now the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, has admitted to his role in the program and apologized.

Almost a week after the NFL pointed to them for failing to stop a bounty program involving some two dozen Saints players, coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis apologized and took the blame for violations that “happened under our watch.”

“These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game,” Payton and Loomis added. “Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans.”

Payton and Loomis also said New Orleans owner Tom Benson “had nothing to do” with the bounty pool.

“As a leader of our football team,” Brees added in his letter, “I feel comfortable in stating that I know well the integrity of our organization from the ownership level, to management, our head coach, and the players on our team. We, as Saints players, pride ourselves on playing this game with honor and hold ourselves to a very high standard.”

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