Those who think the NFL was excessive in its punishments in the Saints’ bounty scandal often say that the Saints are being made scapegoats for practices that are commonplace in football. But the league office doesn’t see it that way.
In fact, league counsel Jeff Pash told Peter King of SI.com that the NFL has no evidence of other teams violating the rules against bounties.
“If we found evidence of the same clarity that we found in the New Orleans case, we would take action,” Pash said. “We have looked into some allegations. But as you know, allegations and accusations are not proof.”
Technically, the Saints aren’t the first team to violate the bounty rules: The 2007 Packers were found to be violating the rules when some players gave $500 to defensive linemen after holding Adrian Peterson under 100 yards in a win over the Vikings. But what makes the Saints’ case exceptional isn’t the mere existence of a technical violation of the pay-for-performance rules. What makes the Saints’ case exceptional is that the team flagrantly violated the rules for years, that there were specific opponents targeted for “knockouts” and “cart-offs,” and that when the league office approached the Saints, not only did team officials not put a stop to it, but they lied to league investigators and kept the bounties going.
It’s possible that some of those other allegations the NFL has looked into had some merit. But it’s hard to believe that any team had a bounty program that went as far as what Gregg Williams had with the Saints. And after seeing how hard the NFL came down on Williams and Sean Payton for lying, it’s even harder to believe that any other coach will lie to league investigators if the NFL continues looking at evidence of other bounty violations.