New Orleans Saints case puts scrutiny on NFL bounty pay

New Orleans Saints case puts scrutiny on NFL bounty pay

NEW YORK - The Associated Press
New Orleans Saints case puts scrutiny on NFL bounty pay

This photo dated Jan. 24, 2010, shows Brett Favre going off the field after being hit in a game against the Saints. AP photo

The revelations were shocking and appalling to those outside the NFL: A team paid bounties to knock opponents out of the game, including some of football’s biggest stars.

For those who suit up, however, it sounded more like the long-accepted cost of doing business in a brutal sport, a dirty little secret that everyone kept on the down low.

Atlanta Falcons star Roddy White called it a “league thing” that goes far beyond the New Orleans Saints. Shawne Merriman of the Buffalo Bills wondered what all the fuss was about, having long maintained he was targeted and sustained a career-altering injury. Former All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said he wasn’t surprised at all that a sordid system had finally been exposed.

“It’s a violent game we play. Whether people want to think about it or not, part of the game is to exert physical dominance over your opponent,” Faneca, who retired after the 2010 season, told The Associated Press on Saturday. “If it results in a guy not finishing the game, then that’s what happened in the course of playing the game.”

Former NFL player Matt Bowen was the bluntest one of all.

“Bounties, cheap shots, whatever you want to call them, they are a part of this game,” Bowen wrote Saturday in a column in the Chicago Tribune.

The NFL said Friday that Saints players and at least one assistant coach maintained a bounty pool of up to $50,000 the last three seasons to reward game-ending injuries inflicted on opposing players, including star quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner.

“Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs. According to the NFL, the pool amounts reached their height in 2009, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Asked whether there is a culture of “bounties” that goes beyond the Saints, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “If we find other violations of league rules, we will take action.” He declined to comment on whether other teams are being investigated.

If the news stunned NFL fans, it didn’t evoke the same reaction in seasoned players.

“It’s a league thing, but it’s about to end because of the Saints story,” White tweeted Saturday.

He also posted, “I got my own bounty on the Saints defense I want to kill them every year.” Merriman, a three-time Pro Bowler, claims he was intentionally injured in 2007 while with the San Diego Chargers in retaliation for hitting Tennessee quarterback Vince Young after a handoff. Merriman hasn’t been the same dominating player since the knee injury.“Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever,” Merriman tweeted.