The NFL dropped a bombshell Friday, releasing the results of an investigation that players and at least one coach on the New Orleans Saints were funding and using a “bounty” program for many defensive players, including extra money for anyone who knocked a player from a game.
One of the reasons the investigation started was the complaints that the Saints had targeted Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in the teams’ playoff game in New Orleans in January, 2010. That was a game that the Cards lost, 45-14, and ended up being Warner’s final game of his career. He was beaten up during the game and then was crushed by Saints lineman Bobby McCray trying to make a tackle after an interception. Warner retired a few weeks later.
Warner said it at the time, but reiterated it again Friday on the Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 620: That hit — and that game — did not make up his mind on retirement. Warner had pretty much decided by midseason his career would be over once the 2009 season was.
“(The McCray hit) put a nice exclamation point on it, but I had known well into that season there was a strong likelihood of me retiring,” Warner said. “It had nothing to do with one hit or one incident. Having made 99 percent of the decision anyway and then you take that hit and are sore for two-and-a-half weeks, it makes you go, ‘Uh, yeah, that’s the right decision.’ But by no means did it come down to one play whether I retired.”
There were other times in that game though when it did look like the Saints were going after Warner and specifically, his head (Warner had suffered through a concussion earlier that season.) Warner got hit a few times up high (like the picture to the right, where he is being clocked by linebacker Jonathan Vilma) but the Saints were only flagged for one personal foul, a roughing-the-passer by linebacker Scott Shanle. Warner at the time wasn’t thrilled about the hits either (the photo below is him complaining to referee Ron Winter.) Warner said the McCray hit was clean, even if it didn’t feel that good.
Warner said he’s heard of plenty of “bounty” speculation in the past, not necessarily with the Saints. There is no question bounties have been around for awhile. The Cards’ own senior director of community relations Luis Zendejas was a infamous target himself from Buddy Ryan and the Eagles back in the 1980s. But Warner also thinks the league, bounties or not, had been morphing into a more violent version anyway, which is why it is good the NFL has put some better rules in place.
“I believe players were going out trying to knock people out,” Warner said. “They were trying to get the big hit. That’s where the league had gone. Whether it was because of a quote-unquote “bounty” or teammates were paying those kinds of incentives, I still believe there are a number of players who were going to hit somebody and try to knock them out. That was the culture.”
The penalties the Saints will receive will be determined later, but they are expected to be severe. This went well beyond the Cards’ game or even the Vikings’ NFC Championship game the following week. Saints were getting $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game and $1,000 if a player was carted off and those payments went up double or triple in the playoffs. Warner said he really doesn’t remember the Saints coming after him or hitting him that day much differently than any team would each week.
But, “I don’t think there is a place in our game for trying to hurt someone,” Warner said.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Saints
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