- "I did not participate in any bounty program," Brees says
- Team's head coach, general manager have said bounty program happened on their watch
- The NFL will decide on discipline, which could include fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft choices
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a letter to fans, saying he was never aware of the infamous bounty program that his team admitted to taking part in.
"I do feel a responsibility to my teammates, the Saints organization and to the fans, to address the "bounty" allegations," Brees wrote in a letter posted Friday on his foundation's website. "There is no place in the National Football League, or any sport played at any level, for players to conspire, to be coerced, or to be incentivized to intentionally injure another player. I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."
Earlier this week, some members and former members of the team admitted to paying bonuses for hits that would knock opposing players out of a game.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis said they took "full responsibility" for the practice, which they said "happened under our watch."
"These are serious violations, and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game," Loomis and Payton said in a statement.
"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 National Football League reported last week that the Saints paid defensive players a bounty for injuring opponents, as well as making interceptions and fumble recoveries, during the 2009-2011 seasons. The program involved as many as 27 players and at least one assistant coach, the league concluded.
The league said the program was administered by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, with knowledge of other coaches. Players regularly contributed cash to a pool, which may have topped $50,000 at its peak.
The players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout," when an opposing player was not able to return to the game, and $1,000 for a "cart-off," when an opposing player had to be carried off the field. In some cases, particular players on the opposing team were targeted, the NFL said.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has received the results of the investigation and will decide on discipline, which could include fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft choices.
Brees said his team should set a better example for young football fans.
"The accusations and perceptions alone created by this issue make us feel like we should all apologize to the young people that love our game and aspire to be in our shoes. Regardless of the outcome of the 'bounty' issue, we owe it to them to provide the best example of how to behave as professionals and more importantly, as people of integrity," Brees wrote.