In a must-read account of the Saints’ three-season bounty system, Peter King of Sports Illustrated shares plenty of intriguing and compelling details. MDS already has highlighted portions of the article relating to Roger Goodell’s reaction to the situation and linebacker Scott Fujita’s position on the subject. But there’s even more good stuff.
During the 2009 NFC title game, which both sparked the league’s investigation and served as the most obvious example of assault and battery of an opposing quarterback, King writes that, after an unflagged high-low hit on Brett Favre resulted in a sprained ankle, an unnamed Saints defender was heard saying on an on-field microphone, “Pay me my money!”
(We know what you’re thinking: The league killed Monday’s re-air of the game on NFL Network because the comment could be heard during the broadcast. Apparently, however, it was a different microphone.)
King also explains that defensive end Anthony Hargrove can be heard saying, “Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!”
Both statements would be strong circumstantial proof of the existence of a bounty program, if the NFL hadn’t already found that the bounty program existed. And King spells out the weekly routine that unfolded during the 2009 season, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ first in New Orleans.
On Saturday night, Williams handed out in a defensive meeting envelopes containing payments for big plays and inflicted injuries from the prior Sunday. And the defenders would then chant, “Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!” Many did, which caused the pile of available cash to keep growing.
The bounty system continued even after, as King explains in the Tuesday edition of his MMQB column, former Vikings coach Brad Childress sent to the league video of eight different hits on Favre from that game, the Vikings officially alleged that the Saints had put a bounty on Favre, and Williams, linebackers coach Joe Vitt, and Hargrove denied (i.e., lied about) its existence to investigators. For Williams, the denials (i.e., lies) continued through the middle of February 2012, when Williams was confronted with evidence implicating him as the “ringleader.” Williams, per King, once again tried to deny it, but Williams then met with Goodell to confess.
Williams was back in New York on Monday, possibly to confess yet again (after possibly denying/lying yet again) his involvement in bounty systems in other cities.
King thinks the punishment issued to the Saints and various individuals will “likely dwarf” the penalties meted out for Spygate. The more we learn about the situation, the less surprising that will be.