Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who absorbed a big hit during a playoff game against the Saints in his final NFL game, has responded to the news that the Saints were using a bounty system at the time.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but I won’t say that I’m completely surprised,” Warner told Burns & Gambo of KTAR in Phoenix. “And, again, not necessarily the Saints, but I’m not surprised that there were teams out there doing those kinds of things behind closed doors.”
Though Warner said he had no knowledge of bounty systems during his career, he said “there’s no doubt” that players pay attention to the injury report, and that he believes players want to knock opponents out of games. “I think that’s part of the game, and I think that’s part of the mindset,” Warner said. “And I’m not going to tell you that I haven’t believed that there was probably defensive players that got together and said, ‘Hey, you know, a thousand bucks for the first guy to knock Kurt out of a football game.’ I’m sure that’s been a part of our league for a long time.”
So did the hit against the Saints end his career? “No, absolutely not,” Warner said. “It was a nice exclamation point on it.”
Warner also pointed out that the hit from Bobby McCray wasn’t dirty. “It was a violent hit, no question,” Warner said. “But I also believes it was a legal hit.”
As to Warner’s suspicions regarding the existence of bounties well before 2009, he’s right. Whenever past whispers regarding bounties have arisen, inevitably coaches and players have said that these things happen, with or without the knowledge of the coaching staff.
That’s why the league needs to take a broader view of this one before imposing discipline. Like Spygate in 2007, the biggest sin for the Saints perhaps was getting caught.
The bigger question will whether the league chooses to make an example out of the Saints, even though other teams surely have used bounties. Five years ago, the NFL definitely made an example out of the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. Given that bounties encourage injuries, it will be impossible for Commissioner Roger Goodell to regard the overriding culture as a mitigating factor.
That’s why, even though Warner thinks the hit he absorbed was clean, he believes that the NFL will need to take significant action in order to keep this from happening again. So do we. With concussion lawsuits raging, the last thing the league needs is to appear soft as to one of the harder realities of life in the NFL.