Former Saints safety Darren Sharper has worked as a guest analyst for NFL Network, the TV operation owned and operated by the league. But Sharper may never get another invitation again, if he continues to openly dispute the findings that the NFL already has made regarding the bounty system that the Saints used from 2009 through 2011.
It started on Friday, when Sharper told NFL.com that the Saints’ bounty system didn’t pay players for hits that injured opponents — even though the announcement of the NFL’s finding plainly states in the second paragraph: “The league’s investigation determined that this improper ‘Pay for Performance’ program included ‘bounty’ payments to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that would result in them being removed from a game.”
Sharper was at it again on Monday, telling 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly that Sharper objects to the use of the term “bounty” because it implies ill intentions. “Saying that we were trying to maim guys or try to cart a guy off is just totally ridiculous,” Sharper said, which implies that he believes the league’s investigation is “just totally ridiculous,” since that’s precisely what the league concluded.
Sharper also contradicts the league’s findings regarding the question of whether head coach Sean Payton knew about the bounty system. “I don’t think Coach Peyton had anything or didn’t know anything about that. Coach Peyton didn’t have any idea what we were doing,” Sharper said. And then Sharper contradicted himself on this point in a subsequent interview with WWL in Louisiana. “Was it overseen and controlled by the coaching staff?” Sharper said. “Yes it was.”
He continues to insist that there was no reward for injuring players, despite the league’s findings.
“This was something that the players came up with and which we wanted to give guys the extra motivation and give guys the extra reward off making big plays in big games,” Sharper told WWL. “And those big plays included sacks, interceptions, scoring touchdowns on defense, things that we did throughout my time there that allowed us to win in the fashion that we won. No way possible did we come into the meeting room before games and say if a guy hurts this player here on their team, their best player, their quarterback, whoever it may be we’re gonna reward that guy for doing that. At no time was that stated in any of the meetings that I was a part of in the New Orleans Saints organization.”
Again, that flies in the face of the league’s findings.
Sharper also takes issue with the dollars involved. “Someone also threw the number out there, $50,000,” Sharper said. “Are you kidding me? $50,000 on a bounty on someone’s head? That has to be ridiculous. First of all, I want to know the guy that’s gonna have that much money they’re gonna pull out their own pocket to pay a guy for just making plays during a game. That’s just totally nonsense and ridiculous.”
Yes, the stuff that he calls “totally nonsense and ridiculous” comes from the NFL’s findings.
Perhaps most troubling is Sharper’s desire to publicize the name of the person who told the league what really was happening, after the coaches and players who had been questioned by the league successfully had stonewalled NFL security.
“We had a family in that room and whatever we did within that room should have stayed in that room,” Sharper told 97.5 The Fanatic. His words to WWL could be regarded as a bit more sinister, especially since he believes the entire situation arose from a former employee’s desire to exact revenge on the Saints.
“Someone that was formerly hired and that was formerly working for the Saints and that was relieved of his duties has a vendetta,” Sharper told WWL. “And they’re trying to get back and is upset about the fact he was let go by the Saints and is trying to make an issue out of something that was in-house and something that we did and was no ill intent in what we did and was just about playing football but now they’re trying to make it into an issue to put a black mark on the Saints organization.”
Sharper possibly is rooting for a vendetta against the person with the vendetta.
“I believe his name will come out,” Sharper said. “I have the name and I’ve been informed of who we think that possibly is the guy that came out and become the quote-unquote snitch, but it’s not [former director of security Geoffrey] Santini. . . . It’s another guy that I believe will come out at a later date.”
Apart from whether the league is inclined to tell one of its employees to exercise his free speech rights only in a manner that is consistent with what the league has determined to be reality, the NFL would be wise to inform Sharper that the last thing anyone needs is a Steve Bartman-style incident, with rabid Saints fans threatening action against whoever is viewed as being responsible for killing the Super Bowl buzz more than two years after the fact. The fact that Sharper even knows the name is alarming, and the league should move swiftly to ensure that no one blurts it out or leaks it anonymously to the media.
On Saturday, we explained the potential impact of dishonesty on the effectiveness of an internal investigation. In such contexts, the only thing worse than prevarication (why don’t you look it up instead of playing another round of MW3?) is retaliation. If the league tolerates any effort to “out” the “quote-unquote snitch,” the league can forget about ever being able to persuade anyone in the future to do the right thing when rules are being broken in a locker room that would otherwise govern itself by the Golden (Nugget) Rule.
UPDATE 10:02 p.m. ET: A prior version of this item described Sharper as an analyst with NFL Network, in reliance upon the manner in which he was introduced by WWL. Sharper instead served only a guest analyst on NFL Network last week. We apologize for the error.