The Saints have launched their first mandatory minicamp of a highly eventful offseason, and for the first time a member of the team’s defense spoke on the record in detail about the team’s pay-for-performance system, which the league has concluded was a bounty program.
According to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, linebacker Scott Shanle explained that, in his view, the NFL made the team’s habit of giving players cash for big plays into something far more sinister than it was.
He believes (as do plenty of others) that the league exaggerated the situation in order to justify making an example out of the Saints, which in turn would deter others from using bounties in the future.
Shanle said that terms like “cart-offs” and “knockouts” came from the hyperbolic lexicon of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. “Gregg said crazy stuff,” Shanle said. “If you take him literally, you’re gonna be locked up. But he was the best motivator I’ve ever been around.”
Shanle said that, if/when there’s a reunion of the Super Bowl XLIV championship team, he hopes Williams will attend.
“There’s been this picture painted that [Jonathan] Vilma was standing in front of the defense before every game picking out players to go after and offering money,” Shanle said. “It was blown up to be something more than it is.”
Actually, no one has painted that picture. The league has accused Vilma of offering $10,000 to anyone who knocked former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of a 2009 NFC divisional playoff game and anyone who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game. The league has produced no evidence to support that claim, but Vilma’s soundbite of choice continues to be that he never paid or intended to pay any money for injuries, which theoretically provides a safe harbor for eventually admitting he offered the money via the same cartoonish pre-game approach that Williams employed.
Still, Shanle held firm. “I never saw any money for injuring somebody exchange hands,” he said.
It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that money didn’t change hands for big hits that incidentally and unintentionally injured the person who got hit. Still, until the NFL gives us something more than characterizations of evidence that may or may not match up with the raw data, there’s no way of knowing who’s telling the truth.