When the Bountygate scandal involving the New Orleans Saints broke, after their 2009 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, several former players at the time stepped forward to say that they too had played for teams that also had cash payouts for injuring opponents.
Now, thanks to an excerpt from Deadspin on the new Jeff Pearlman biography about Brett Favre, we now know that the Vikings had a “pay-for-pain” bounty system as well.
Former Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks told Pearlman that while the Saints ran their bounty system, the Vikings pretty much did the exact same thing. “It was part of the culture,” explained Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks. “I had coaches start a pot and all the veterans put in an extra $100, $200, and if you hurt someone special, you get the money. There was a bottom line, and I think we all bought in: you’re there to win, and if taking out the other team’s best player helps you win, hey, it’s nothing personal. Just business.”
To back that up, Hicks told the tale of a Vikings team meeting three days before the Vikings played the Green Bay Packers, where a Vikings coach stood up in a meeting and offered a specific bounty on Packers linebacker Nick Barnett: “I will give $500 to anyone who takes this motherf*cker out of the game.”
The Vikings targeted Barnett specifically, because after watching film of their previous game against Green Bay, they decided Barnett had deliberately tried to injure Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Quite a bit to unpack here. First of all, Hicks’ statement confirms what everyone pretty much already knew and said at the time Bountygate occurred. Essentially, that bounty systems of some form or fashion probably existed in most, if not all, NFL locker rooms. Making it incredibly silly to single out the Saints, especially since no tangible proof existed that anyone who sacked or hit Favre that day did so for any reason other than that it was their job to do it.
The optics surrounding Roger Goodell may come as a much bigger implication. Remember, Goodell came down extremely heavy-handed in his conduct towards and punishment of the Saints for Bountygate. Conduct and punishment that former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue found wrongheaded when he issued a sharp rebuke to Goodell and overturned four of the player suspensions that he had issued.
So where does Goodell go from here? Does he ask Tagliabue to now come back and review the Vikings bounty system, a system Goodell presumably knew nothing about, after Taglaibue already found him to have botched the Saints punishment?
I would have to consider that outcome highly unlikely yet hilarious to watch if it happened.
For the moment, we have yet another example of the incandescent incompetence of Roger Goodell, combined with his mishandling of Ray Rice, the Josh Brown case, and now coming full circle with a return to Bountygate, where a former commissioner exposed him as completely and totally out of his depth.
Maybe we should have learned something from that.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn