The NFL may not be interested in exploring the depths of the intentional-injury rabbit hole, but the disclosure of a bounty system in New Orleans and multiple reports of similar programs elsewhere has created a feeding frenzy when it comes to accounts of teams encouraging players to attempt to hurt opponents.
The latest allegation comes from former Vikings defensive lineman Brad Culpepper. who claims that, in the 1990s, the defensive linemen were coached on the finer points of knocking the quarterback out of the game.
“We practiced techniques to injure players,” Culpepper said on Mike Bianchi’s Orlando-based radio show, via Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We would dive on a mat and aim for the knee portion of a pad like it was the quarterback, and we would practice going at that and trying to bust the quarterback’s knee. You knock the quarterback out, you win the game. . . . If you pull on their arm and land on their shoulder, you can dislocate [the shoulder] and then they’re out. We used to practice that, too.”
Former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman disagrees. “That wasn’t a part of it,” Doleman told Fowler. “I would know. I was a starter. It was never about hurting a quarterback. Intimidating a quarterback, knocking him around — absolutely. One hundred percent. But not injuring. . . .
“Maybe why [Culpepper's] going in that direction is this, for example — when you try to get a quarterback down, the way to strip a ball is to get his arms straight,” Doleman said. “If you look at film, when I’m going after a quarterback, we put our arms down on his arms, like we’re putting him in a bag, so he has no control over the ball. Can’t throw it. But that’s proper technique, nothing else. Our thing was, cause a disruption in the backfield — but to get the ball back, not to hurt.”
Culpepper contends that no money was offered for inflicting injury on quarterbacks. “I would have done anything to gain favor with the coaches or my teammates,” Culpepper said.
Complicating matters is that, from 1992 through 1995, the Vikings’ defensive coordinator was Tony Dungy, who enjoys a stellar reputation throughout league and media circles. But the defensive line coach from 1992 through 1994 was John Teerlinck, who found himself summoned to the league office in 1996 for a meeting with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue regarding Teerlinck’s reputation for instructing defenders to go low on quarterbacks.
Thus, while it’s possible that Teerlinck was teaching defenders to aim low and/or to drive shoulders into the ground, it undoubtedly would have been something that happened without Dungy’s knowledge or involvement.
Indeed, Culpepper spent only two seasons with the Vikings (1992 and 1993) before joining the Buccaneers, where Dungy later became head coach. Given that Culpepper worked with Dungy for four years in Tampa and only two in Minnesota and given that Teerlinck never coached for the Bucs and given that Culpepper isn’t claiming that the same practices were used in Tampa, it’s safe to assume that, if anything dirty was going on in Minnesota, Teerlinck was teaching it.
UPDATE 2:53 p.m. ET: In the full radio interview, Culpepper specifically mentions Teerlinck. Culpepper never mentions Dungy. Culpepper also says that “none of this stuff went on in Tampa.”