The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' division rival New Orleans Saints are in some hot water in the aftermath of "BountyGate". As you likely know by now, the NFL completed a lengthy investigation into a "pay for performance" bounty system set up by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. It's been suggested the practice has following Williams from Tennessee to Washington and finally landed in New Orleans. Allegedly, bounties to "take out" key opposing offensive players were issued during games by Saints players, Williams and even outside sources from 2009 through the 2011 season.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre during the NFC Championship game of 2009. Anyone seeing how beaten and battered Favre was in that game can certainly believe it.
So the question begs to be asked. Tampa Bay played the Saints six times during Williams' tenure in New Orleans. Did they have a bounty on Josh Freeman?
Both Freeman and LeGarrette Blount have gotten into fist-a-cuffs with Saints defenders for perceived cheapshots. The normally mild-mannered Freeman got into a fight with Saints DB Malcolm Jenkins during a 2010 game when Jenkins went low on him near the sidelines.
"If you want to try to hit me, hit me high," Freeman said after that game. "I thought it was completely unnecessary and cheap to take a shot at my knees."
Freeman's had a few run-ins with Saints defenders. Hits after the whistle, hits low, hits when players were defenseless - we've seen it all from the Saints - so none of this is very surprising. Still, is it something that's commonplace in the league?
Certainly, the Bucs didn't have a bounty program - after all, who would collect? It's not like Tampa Bay's defense hit anyone.
I don't think the Saints went after just Freeman. CB Tracy Porter narrowly escaped a serious injury went attempting to take out a defenseless Mike Williams in a game in 2011.
In the same game, after a late hit, LeGarrette Blount re-lived his Oregon days, throwing a jab at Saints DE Will Smith.
Gregg Williams coached dirty and the Saints players played dirty. The only surprising thing is that someone blew the whistle on this.
"Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals (in the Saints organization)," Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the release. "At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season."
Apparently the entire organization is filled with liars as well.
I'd expect a very stiff penalty for all of those involved in this incident. In addition, you have to imagine Josh Freeman is breathing a little easier knowing Coach Bounty has headed to St. Louis.