Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, said by the NFL to have orchestrated the Saints scheme, was on the coaching staff at each of the four teams.
The NFL, which is trying to improve its image in the face of lawsuits by former players over concussion injuries, is likely to mete out its own punishment against teams involved in making bounty payments, which could include suspensions, fines and restrictions on player recruitment.
But pieces of the scandal could well end up in the courts, say legal experts.
Criminal charges of assault and battery against the teams, including Williams, are possible, said Ryan Rodenberg, an attorney and a sports management professor at Florida State University.
Rodenberg said that in 2000, Canadian prosecutors brought assault charges against Boston Bruins hockey player Marty McSorley for smashing Vancouver Canucks player Donald Brashear in the head with a hockey stick. As a result of the blow, Brashear struck his head on the ice, lost consciousness and suffered memory lapses. McSorley was sentenced to 18 months probation and banned from playing for that period.
Although the case did not involve bounty payments, it illustrates the willingness of prosecutors to get involved in situations involving intentional hits, Rodenberg said. Criminal charges related to the bounty scandal could arise from the various jurisdictions where injuries occurred.