Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith wasn't surprised at all when the New Orleans Saints' bounty program came to light this offseason. The longtime NFC South rival said he's "always known" Gregg Williams' defenses try to hurt opposing players.
"I actually had an altercation with a guy who told me firsthand," Smith said Tuesday on NFL.com's "Dave Dameshek Football Program," although he didn't name the Saints player. "I was going out of bounds, and the guy went for my ankle. I said, 'Hey, man, cut that out.' He's like, 'Well, we get fined if we don't go after your legs when you go out of bounds.' ... And actually this past year, this last game when we played them, I had a little conversation with Gregg Williams. ... He took responsibility, he was saying it wasn't right, but that's who he was."
We're past the point of being surprised by the Saints' activities at this point. Would it seem out of character for Williams to have his players pay small fines if they didn't play with an edge?
The Carolina-New Orleans rivalry was re-ignited last season by a scuffle following a Smith touchdown celebration (not to mention a late hit by Saints safety Roman Harper). We won't have to wait long to see if Smith's words further inflame the matchup: The Saints head to Carolina in Week 2 next season.
The Saints just have to hope they have enough non-suspended players to field a defense that day.