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Vikings, then-coach Brad Childress deny claim of bounty system

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The Minnesota Vikings and former coach Brad Childress denied allegations from former Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks that the team had a bounty system in 2008-09 that was similar to the one allegedly run by the New Orleans Saints.

The NFL had no comment on whether it would investigate Hicks' claims, which were revealed in a new book about Brett Favre by author Jeff Pearlman.

"It was part of the culture," Hicks said, according to an excerpt published by Deadspin. "I had coaches start a pot and all the veterans put in an extra $100, $200, and if you hurt someone special, you get the money."

The Vikings' response: "There is no truth to it."

Childress, who now works as co-offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, said Thursday, "I had a great opportunity to coach a lot of great people there, including Artis Hicks, at the Minnesota Vikings. I have too much respect for the Wilf family [and] professional football to have anything to do with a bounty system. I'm going to let it stand at that.''

Some current and former Vikings also denied any knowledge of any type of bounty or payment-incentive system.

"I haven't heard of any bounty program since I've been here [since 2007]," defensive end Brian Robison said Thursday. "I'm very unaware of a bounty program. I'm not going to sit here and talk about it all day. It is what it is. If Artis wants to say stuff like that, obviously, he's trying to bring attention on him. So what? At the end of the day, like I said, I'm unaware of any bounty program that's happened here in the time that I've been here.

"I was very surprised. I actually saw it [Wednesday] and I was like -- basically the first thing I said, in the car with my wife, was, 'What the hell?' It was very shocking to me. But you know, it's not surprising. We were on a roll, and of course, all this comes out when you get a loss. Whatever. It is what it is."

Former linebacker Ben Leber and former punter Chris Kluwe also denied the claims on Twitter and chatted back and forth:

The Vikings, of course, were the most prominent "victims" of the Saints' alleged bounty program, with claims that a specific bounty was placed on Favre in the 2010 NFC Championship Game by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

And Childress was the one who reportedly informed the NFL that he had heard about the bounty on Favre from a player.

The league initially found no evidence of wrongdoing against the Saints when it first investigated in 2010. However, the league reopened its investigation in 2012 based on further claims from former Saints coaching assistant Mike Cerullo.

The NFL then found that the Saints ran an injury-incentive program for three years under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, including rewards for players being carted off or knocked out of games through legal hits. The league doled out the most severe punishments in its history, including year-long suspensions for head coach Sean Payton and Williams, and the loss of two second-round draft picks.

The league attempted to suspend four players, including Vilma for a full year. All of the player suspensions were ultimately overturned after numerous appeals, with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue serving as the arbitrator and finding that he saw no justification for such unprecedented punishments.

Tagliabue wrote in his decision that he believed Vilma offered some sort of bounty on Favre in a team meeting but that it wasn't clear if it was a serious pledge or amount to "trash talk that occurs regularly before and during games."

Since that time, there have been other reports of players claiming that they were involved in similar injury-incentive programs, most prominently from several former members of the Washington Redskins when they played under Williams.

However, the NFL said it found no evidence of wrongdoing following investigations into both the Redskins and the Buffalo Bills, where Williams previously coached.

A separate claim in Pearlman's book was also refuted Wednesday when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers strongly denied that he referred to Favre as "Grandpa" the first time he met him in 2005.

ESPN's Ben Goessling and Adam Teicher contributed to this report.

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