Independent counsel: bounty payments were made

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NEW YORK (AP) -- A former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL to evaluate its investigation of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program says the evidence shows payments were handed out and received for some hits on targeted opponents.

Mary Jo White says Thursday in a conference call that evidence in the league's investigation of the three-year bounty system provided "an unusually strong record" and came from people with "firsthand knowledge and corroborated by documentation."

When asked twice whether any players actually were paid for hits, White confirmed they were without going into specifics.

She adds the players "always had the option to say no," but didn't.

White was asked in December by the NFL to examine the evidence. She concluded that "the factual basis for the sanctions is quite strong in my opinion."