The good news is that Cris Carter’s confession to a career of bounties has gotten ESPN to quit talking about whether current and former NFL players will let their kids play football. The bad news is that we’ve now heard far more about Cris Carter and bounties that we ever wanted to hear.
He was back on ESPN Radio’s Hill & Schlereth Wednesday night, for another extended discussion about the use of cash payments to teammates to protect himself and others from getting blown up by certain defensive players. Though Mike Hill and Mark Schelerth continued to try to help Carter massage his message, Carter didn’t deviate all that far from what he had said on Tuesday night.
Though some are characterizing Carter’s Wednesday night remarks as a clarification that makes Carter’s practices far less nefarious than the Saints’ bounty system, the words weren’t all that different. Carter said once again didn’t use bounties with an intent to injure, but as an aid toward winning games and staying healthy.
Still, it’s likely that Carter was a imprecise at best and reckless at worst with his terms, from the get go. The word bounty implies that a fee will be paid for doing something nefarious to the target of said bounty. Perhaps during Carter’s 16 NFL seasons the practice of using bounties was so widespread that the term got used in circumstances where it simply didn’t apply, such as protecting an offensive player from getting hit hard by a member of the opposing defense.
Despite the words that were used, Carter’s comments illustrate why the NFL hopes to make the modern game seem safer by minimizing a rough-and-tumble culture in which money changes hands for making big hits and/or delivering a blow to a defensive player before he can take out an offensive player. Removing bounties won’t make the game less violent, but if could smooth out some of the unnecessary violence. And so, like making kickoffs safer by having fewer of them, eliminating bounties could make the game safer, in theory, by stripping away the incentive to engage in contact that otherwise would be avoided.
But perhaps the most intriguing comment from Carter came at the end of the interview, when he explained why receiver Randy Moss was vulnerable during his rookie season. Despite having the most dramatic impact on the game of any first-year player since Gale Sayers, Carter said that Moss couldn’t bench-press 225 pounds a single time when he showed up for work in Minnesota.
“Now that guy needs protection from the first day,” Carter said.