- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Dan Hampton doesn't buy for a second that the Green Bay Packers didn't impose a bounty on the heads of various Bears in the season following Chicago's Super Bowl XX win.
"Charles Martin ... he put numbers on his towel to take away all pretense of [not having] a bounty," Hampton said Sunday.
It was Nov. 23, 1986 at Soldier Field, in the team's second meeting of the season, and Martin wore a white towel on his belt with the numbers of several Bears, including quarterback Jim McMahon, who was playing with an injured throwing shoulder.
McMahon was walking toward the sideline following an interception by Packers cornerback Mark Lee in the second quarter when Martin, Green Bay's nose tackle, grabbed McMahon and threw him to the turf, where he landed on his right shoulder.
Bears tackle Jimbo Covert responded by knocking Martin to the ground and referee Jerry Markbreit immediately ejected Martin, who received a high-five by cornerback Mossy Cade as the crowd rained boos on the Bears rivals.
McMahon remained in the game but later underwent surgery, was lost for the remainder of the season and the injury had long-term repercussions on his career.
The Bears believed the Packers had put a bounty on the heads of several of their players, but safety Ken Stills, in an interview with ESPNChicago.com in October of 2010, denied the charge.
"It wasn't a hit list like it was made out to be, numbers we'd cross off when we knocked them out of the game," Stills said. "It was, ‘These are the guys we have to stop to win the game.' "
Martin died in 2005 at the age of 45.
Stills claimed there was a bounty out on him by the Bears in their first game that season, a 25-12 Bears victory on Sept. 22 in Green Bay.
"Dennis Gentry kneed me in the head on the third play and knocked me out," he said. "Guys told me Chicago players were saying, ‘Who gets the bounty?' But I came back and played in the second half and I understood. That was the game."
Asked then about the hit, McMahon said, "You get hit legally, it's part of the game. When you get mugged, it's not part of the game."
The rivalry and extracurricular play between the two teams had escalated in a game at Lambeau Field during the '85 season, when Packers corner Mark Lee drove Walter Payton out of bounds and over the Bears' bench on a play that got Lee ejected.
Then, on the Bears next possession, Stills, a rookie who had been cut by the team in the preseason and re-signed that week, leveled Bears fullback Matt Suhey several seconds after the whistle was blown.
But Stills insisted it was his momentum that got the best of him and Packers coach Forrest Gregg, also interviewed in October of 2010, also said he did not condone the Stills' hit or any dirty play.
"We didn't have a dirty football team," Gregg said. "I never taught my players to do anything against the rules. It was ‘Play hard and play tough.' That game got out of hand . . . [but] things happen in ballgames. . . ."
Dan Hampton believes the Packers had a bounty on the Bears in 1986.