Panthers receiver Steve Smith says that when news broke of the Saints bounty scandal, he wasn’t the least bit surprised because he was previously told by a Saints player that dirty plays were encouraged.
In fact, Smith said on the Dave Dameshek Football Program on NFL.com that a Saints player took a cheap shot at him during a game, and when Smith objected, the player told him that he had to do it because on the Saints’ defense, you get fined if you don’t take cheap shots.
“I always knew Gregg Williams and his defenses would do that,” Smith said. “I actually had an altercation with a guy who told me firsthand. I was going out of bounds, and the guy went for my ankle. I said, ‘Hey, man, cut that out.’ He’s like, ‘Well, we get fined if we don’t go after your legs when you go out of bounds.’ . . . And actually this past year, this last game when we played them, I had a little conversation with Gregg Williams. . . . He took responsibility, he was saying it wasn’t right, but that’s who he was and that’s who he is.”
Although some people will be inclined to believe any negative story that comes out about the Saints these days, Smith’s claim doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why didn’t he name the Saints player who told him that? Why did he wait until now to say anything about it? Why didn’t Smith mention it last season, when he was involved in an altercation with Saints safety Roman Harper, who hit him in the end zone after Smith scored a touchdown?
Smith’s claims also don’t align with what we’ve previously heard about the Saints’ bounty program: Smith is saying that Saints players were fined for not taking cheap shots, which isn’t the same thing as being rewarded with bonuses for taking opposing players out. Smith, who has a habit of sucker punching teammates, also isn’t exactly the guy who has the best case for taking the high road when it comes to cheap shots.
So as we add it to the pile of negative stories coming out about the Saints this offseason, Smith’s is a story that should be met with skepticism.