When Saints quarterback Drew Brees first addressed his team’s three-year bounty program, Brees claimed that he wasn’t aware of the system’s “real existence.” In his most recent remarks on the subject, Brees said that it didn’t exist at all.
“I would say what we’ve been accused of in regards to pay for injury is not the case,” Brees said at the Tuesday press conference regarding his upcoming golf tournament.
Brees offered no specifics to contradict the NFL’s findings, which have resulted in a one-year suspension for coach Sean Payton, an eight-game suspension for G.M. Mickey Loomis, a six-game suspension for assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt, an indefinite suspension for former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and a $500,000 fine and the loss of two second-round pick for the Saints. (All suspensions have been upheld on appeal; Williams did not file an appeal.)
There’s a chance Brees is splitting hairs. After all, the only player carted off during a Saints game from 2009 through 2011 was former Saints running back Reggie Bush, who broke a leg during a 2010 Monday night game against the 49ers. So while there may have been a financial incentive for Saints defensive players to cause “cart-offs,” no one ever succeeded.
Brees also addressed the fact that defensive players are aggressive. “When a guy has an opportunity to take a shot at the quarterback, he’s going to take it,” Brees said. “I’m not saying he’s trying to end a career or give you a concussion. But between the knees and the neck, he’s trying to take you out every time. That’s just football — we play a violent game.”
Of course, some players stray beyond the strike zone, like Saints defensive end Bobby McCray did when hitting Brett Favre low in the 2009 NFC title game. To the extent that players do it deliberately, and to the extent they are promised money by their coaches for doing so, that’ a problem.
Brees also addressed for the first time the problematic audio of Williams’ pre-game speech from the night before the playoff loss to the 49ers in January 2012.
“I think that was hard for everybody to hear,” Brees said, via U-T San Diego. “Like I said, I’m really going to stick with our foundation at this event. That’s why we’re all here.”
Brees comments come at a time when some league insiders contend that Brees knew about the bounty system, that he confronted his teammates about it, and that he was told that other teams have bounties on him. (In a poll posted last month at PFT, nearly 80 percent of more than 15,000 who responded believe that Brees knew about the bounty system.)
Though it’s not known, and possibly won’t be known, whether Brees knew about the situation and whether he did anything to try to stop it, the NFL has concluded that a bounty system was in pace, the NFL has meted out punishment against the coaches involved, and the NFL is now poised to punish the players. Given that it wasn’t in the league’s broader interests to expose a bounty system if in fact there was no bounty system, it’s hard to agree with Brees’ claim that the league’s allegations are incorrect.