|Former Vikings WR Cris Carter admitted putting bounties on players but only as protection. (Getty Images)|
This has been an offseason full of storylines, many of which the league would just as soon be erased from our memory Men in Black style, and we're barely into May. We've had the innocuously tiresome: the Colts dumped Peyton Manning, the Broncos then won the Peyton sweepstakes -- and unloaded Tim Tebow shortly thereafter. The exceptionally stupid: the Saints' bounty scandal that led to coaches, a front office executive and a handful of players facing suspensions ranging from three games to indefinitely. And the unthinkably somber: last week's tragic death of Junior Seau.
It's been a black mark on the league's image, an image commissioner Roger Goodell prefers to have portrayed as wholesome. The bounty scandal and Seau's suicide again brought safety to the fore, as well as ancillary conversations like this.
Goodell, who in the most recent CBA retained the right to mete out punishments as well as handle any subsequent appeals for off-field misconduct, would like to put the bounty scandal in the rearview and continue to promote the league's efforts to enhance player safety. Except that the bounty scandal stubbornly refuses to retire from the news cycle.
The latest, courtesy of former NFL wide receiver Cris Carter, now an analyst with ESPN. During a Tuesday radio appearance with Mike Hill and Mark Schlereth, Carter spoke candidly about placing bounties on opponents during his playing career.
“I'm guilty of it,” Carter said via ProFootballTalk.com. “It's the first time I've ever admitted it. But I put a bounty on guys before. I put bounties on guys. And the guys tried to take me out, a guy tried to take a cheap shot on me, I put a bounty on him, right now.”
When asked if these bounties were for money, Carter said "absolutely," explaining that it was a means for protecting himself from overzealous defenders looking to hurt him. Unlike the Saints' situation, Carter never used bounties to "maim or hurt the dude," but was “based on protection or (a) big hit, excitement or helping your team win." He added that during his time in Minnesota, bounties were also used to protect players like Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Randall Cunningham.
“Protect me. . . . Protect me from him," he said. ". . . Especially if he's playing a different position where I can't protect myself. “I'd tell one of them guards, ‘Hey man, this dude is after me, man. Bill Romanowski.' He told me he's gonna take me out before the game, in warmups. No problem. ‘I'm gonna end your career, Carter.' No problem. I put a little change on his head before the game. Protect myself, protect my family. That's the league that I grew up in.”
There's a distinction to be made between what Carter describes and what former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was heard telling his players to do in that January playoff game against the 49ers. Would the Saints have been spared many of the sanctions levied against them had their bounties been protective in nature?
Perhaps. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Unless Sean Payton can get his hands on a time machine, Goodell's punishments will stand. And while Carter's admission is proof that the Saints aren't alone, they flagrantly flouted warnings from the league and inevitably got caught.
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