Nearly a decade after the Saints’ bounty scandal gave the NFL an opportunity to show that player health and safety has become a major priority (as long as the full extent of the cultural realities of bounties throughout the league was never fully explored), a much less problematic version of the controversy accidentally emerged on Monday.
“[I]t’s always that mentality like, ‘Beat me to the ball. Get more tackles than me. Let’s see who can come up with the biggest play first. You know, whoever come up with the biggest play that person gotta pay the other person $1,000.’ Just little stuff that I’m able to throw into our game to make it more interesting, as well.”
The payment aspect approaches the third rail that got the Saints in so much trouble in early 2012. While the payment is made between a pair of players and apparently not organized or sanctioned by the team, it’s a practice that easily could spread to more players and, eventually, become part of the fabric of the Tampa Bay defense.
The slope quickly gets slippery, for other reasons. What constitutes the “biggest play”? An interception, a touchdown? A sack?
A clean, legal hit that knocks an opponent out of the game?
Again, this is far cry from the bounty programs that multiple teams administered before the NFL pulled the plug by making an extreme example out of the Saints. However, now that it’s come to light, the smart move for the Bucs would be to tell them to shut it down or, at a minimum, to quit talking about it.