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'Bounty' system probe is well-worn territory for NFL

  • By NFL.com
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The NFL surprised many by revealing last Friday that the New Orleans Saints ran a "bounty" program from 2009 to 2011 that involved former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and as many as 27 players.

But NFL Network research found that at least four other teams in league history have been investigated for suspected ties to "bounty" systems. Take a look at each team and the fallout from the investigations.

1985 Chicago Bears

Commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Bears linebacker Wilber Marshall $2,000 after Marshall leveled Detroit Lions quarterback Joe Ferguson in Chicago's last regular-season game. In Rozelle's letter to Marshall he referred to comments by Bears cornerback Mike Richardson that noted a Bears reward system for knocking out quarterbacks.

Richardson and Bears coach Mike Ditka denied all allegations. Ditka said he encouraged Marshall to appeal the fine.

1989 Philadelphia Eagles

In a Thanksgiving Day game, Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson alleged that Eagles coach Buddy Ryan placed bounties of $500 on Troy Aikman and $200 on kicker Luis Zendejas if either were knocked out of the game. Zendejas gave NFL Security the names of "four or five" Eagles (his own team earlier that season) who told him about the bounty before the game. Zendejas said he was told there were bounties on him, Aikman and punter Mike Saxon.

The NFL investigated, including interviewing Zendejas, but announced 15 days after the game that it found no proof, direct or indirect, of bounties. Eleven days after the NFL announcement the two teams played again. While preparing for the game, some Eagles players and coaches wore T-shirts that read "Buddy's Bounty Hunters."

Referring to the bounty controversy before the second game, Buddy Ryan said, "They (the Cowboys) had a bad Thanksgiving Day game and what's-his-name (Johnson) didn't take the heat for a bad game. Then he came up with the Bounty Bowl."

Johnson, informed of the reference to him as "what's-his-name," said Ryan "might be getting senile."

About the senile reference, Ryan snapped, "I only remember important things."

2007 Green Bay Packers

ESPN reported that Packers defenders were paid $500 each by members of the team if they could hold Adrian Peterson to less than 100 yards rushing, and that defenders later were offered $500 each if they could hold the Carolina Panthers to under 60 yards rushing as a team.

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After the NFL investigated, the league said that the Packers would not be punished and released the following statement: "The club has handled the matter with the players and the incentive pool has been discontinued."

2008 Baltimore Ravens

Terrell Suggs said on an Atlanta sports talk show that the Ravens had a "bounty" on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall left the game against the Ravens with a season-ending shoulder injury from a Ray Lewis tackle.

After those comments made waves, former Ravens coach Brian Billick confirmed that there had been bounties during his nine seasons leading the team.

"Every team does it," Billick said on "The Dan Patrick Show." "Now, to go out and talk publicly about it is about as foolish a thing as I've ever heard."

Billick, who previously denied there were bounties on the Ravens in 2001, recently said that money routinely changes hands among players for great plays and big hits, which is against NFL rules. Billick has not said that the Ravens had any rewards for injuring other players.

Suggs later said he misspoke when he used the word bounty with respect to Ward and Mendenhall. No punishment was handed down, but the league said the second meeting of these teams would be watched very closely.

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