The fallout from the Saints’ bounty scandal continues to rain down, though one of the major unresolved matters is the discipline facing the 22-27 New Orleans players who participated in former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ pay-for-pain program.
However one of those defenders, former Saints FS Darren Sharper, doesn’t believe further sanctions are necessary nor can allegations surrounding his ex-mates be substantiated.
“I don’t think that first of all suspensions and fines are warranted. I still don’t feel as though there is proof that guys received certain benefits from making dirty plays or making plays during the game,” Sharper told WWL in New Orleans.
“To say that you are going to fine guys because word of mouth, or someone says, or someone might speculate, or someone might have a rumor out there saying that this guy came out and put a certain amount of money out and put a certain amount of money up to put a player out of a game — I don’t know the truth behind that, and I don’t know if there is enough information to prove that.”
Sharper led the league with nine INTs in 2009, Williams’ first with the team, and set a single-season record with 376 interception return yards along with scoring three TDs. He was a major figure in the team’s drive toward its Super Bowl XLIV victory.
A first-team all-pro in 2009, a knee injury limited Sharper’s effectiveness in 2010, his last NFL season. Yet clearly he still has the backs of his former teammates, including MLB Jonathan Vilma, who was cited by the NFL for putting a $10,000 bounty on Vikings QB Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship Game when the league issued its initial findings and penalties into the team’s bounty program March 21.
“You are kind of tinkering on thin ice there by saying you are going to take a guy away from the game and have him lose money when you don’t necessarily have material or bulletproof (evidence) that guys did that,” Sharper contended. “That’s the tough situation for me, and it’s tough for me to speculate being that I was a part of the team that the program was going under as far as the payment for making big plays.
“I don’t want to call it a bounty as far as guys getting rewards for making big plays.”