New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Shanle acknowledges mistakes were made within the framework of the team's pay-for-performance program, but he believes the NFL has blown the matter out of proportion in order to scare the rest of the league straight.
Shanle has been with the Saints for six seasons and played three of those (2009 to 2011) under disgraced former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. In comments to The Times-Picayune, Shanle cited the existence of a pay-for-performance program under Williams, with rewards ranging from $500 and $1,000 for key plays. Shanle said players were rewarded for big hits, referred to in-house as "cart-offs" or "knockouts," but claimed that terminology is being taken out of context. Shanle described those words as "Gregg's language."
The linebacker echoed something we've heard from many within the organization: There wasn't any intent to target players for injury. Shanle said players were accustomed to Williams' hyperbole and didn't take the coordinator's fiery words as gospel.
"Gregg said crazy stuff," Shanle told the newspaper. "If you take him literally, you're gonna be locked up. But he was the best motivator I've ever been around."
Shanle discouraged the characterization of a Saints team out of control, arguing players lost money to the pool for penalties and illegal hits.
"There's been this picture painted that (suspended linebacker Jonathan) Vilma was standing in front of the defense before every game picking out players to go after and offering money," Shanle said. "It was blown up to be something more than it is."
Shanle urged the following: "I never saw any money for injuring somebody exchange hands."
Shanle -- who didn't line up with the team's starters at Tuesday's minicamp -- isn't the only Saints defender to claim he wasn't paid to injure an opponent. He isn't alone among his teammates in claiming NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league have tilted the "bounty" program out of proportion, either. It's a situation that remains tough to pin down until we know more about the evidence involved.