New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator...

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during a game at the Louisiana Superdome. (Sept. 26, 2010) Credit: AP

Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis acknowledged in a statement Tuesday that the team ran a bounty program from the 2009-11 seasons, and apologized to team owner Tom Benson.

In their first public comments since the NFL announced on Friday the findings of a months-long investigation that detailed a system that paid defensive players extra money if they made big plays, including hits that sent opposing players out of games, Payton and Loomis expressed remorse about the program. Among the targets of the bounties were quarterbacks Brett Favre of the Vikings and Kurt Warner of the Cardinals. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who now has the same position with the Rams, ran the program and acknowledged his role in it on Friday.

"We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch," the statement read. "We take full responsibility. This has brought undue hardship on Mr. Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him."

The two said they understood the gravity of the issue, and vowed to prevent it from occurring again.

"These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game," the statement read. "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."

The NFL said Payton was aware of the bounty program but did nothing to stop it. The investigation also revealed that Benson, who was not aware of the program until he was told about it by investigators in early January, instructed Loomis to discontinue the policy. According to the NFL, Loomis did not put a stop to it.

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