Posted: Thursday December 27, 2012 6:34 PM

Saints say NFL bounty probe took a toll on season

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) - History will show that in the wake of the NFL's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints, the club missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Saints players and coaches have said throughout the season they wouldn't allow the probe and resulting suspensions to become an excuse for failure.

At the same time, few at Saints headquarters completely discount the effect the scandal had on the club being 7-8 heading into Sunday's season finale against Carolina.

Linebacker Scott Shanle, who's been with the Saints seven years, says it's fair to equate the NFL's bounty probe with the club's inconsistent play. Shanle says it's "a pretty big deal'' to have a coach as successful as Sean Payton suspended an entire season.

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