The Panthers will seek payback, make no mistake about it, but they will seek it through the rulebook and on the scoreboard. Minus white envelopes stuffed with cash in some team facility backroom under the guise of motivating an NFL defense.
The league's investigation into the Saints' bounty program revealed that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was among those targeted by Saints players during the 2011 season. The intent was to take him out.
The Saints have been exposed and must eventually return to the field to face the very teams and players they marked for injury.
"I'd be surprised if there's any retribution, I really would," Panthers coach Ron Rivera told ESPN.com on Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting.
"When we play them, it's not going to be about that. It's going to be us playing them trying to win our division. And that's what it should be. It should be about the game, and not what happened."
First mistake by New Orleans: Pinpointing a lion such as Newton, who will burn to torch the Saints' defense deep into the decade.
Rivera deserves the benefit of the doubt. How his players respond -- especially as a team whose quarterback's name was written in bold letters on a shadowy hit list -- is a different story altogether.