Bears wonder if Saints targeted them

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
6:57
PM ET
News of the NFL's investigation into a New Orleans Saints "bounty" program led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and funded primarily by players left some Chicago Bears players questioning whether they were victimized by the team in a 30-13 Week 2 loss.

The NFL announced Friday it found that several players on the New Orleans Saints and Williams maintained an improper pay-for-performance system that included "bounty" payments to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that would result in them leaving the game. Two Bears players -- offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and receiver Earl Bennett -- suffered injuries against the Saints that led to them missing a combined 19 games.

Upon learning the news about the Saints, one Bears player asked via text message, "How much for Earl's injury, I ask?"

[+] EnlargeEarl Bennett
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesEarl Bennett and other Bears wonder if the Saints had a bounty on them in Week 2.
Bennett, who first responded to the news on Twitter saying "SMH!"(shaking my head), later expressed his desire for another chance to face the Saints soon.

"All I have to say is I hope we play them again," Bennett said. "The game of football is a contact sport, so if they're gunning for me, I'm going to be gunning for them."

Bennett left Chicago's Week 2 loss after taking a crushing hit to the midsection from Saints safety Roman Harper that caused internal injuries. The hit resulted in Bennett missing five games. In the same game, Carimi was lost for the season because of subluxation of his right knee cap. In addition, quarterback Jay Cutler -- who was sacked six times, including twice by Harper -- was kicked in the throat early in the third quarter, which left the signal caller struggling to call signals in the second half.

"I got kicked in the throat at the start of the third quarter," Cutler said at the time. "It was worse in the third quarter and fourth quarter with my voice. Guys I guess couldn't hear the snap count and the plays coming out."

Interestingly, Harper was fined a total of $22,500 by the NFL for two infractions during a Saints game last season against the Tennessee Titans. The safety wasn't fined for his shot on Bennett.

After one sack of Cutler during the Week 2 loss in the Superdome, right tackle Frank Omiyale -- filling in for the injured Carimi -- pulled a rusher off the quarterback igniting somewhat of a skirmish between he and the defender. Asked what prompted the tussle, Omiyale at the time said "they were doing some dirty stuff."

According to the league's findings, New Orleans Saints players contributed cash into a pool and received payments for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but also included "bounty" rewards for "cart-offs," meaning that the opposing player was taken
off the field, and "knockouts," which were characterized by a player being unable to return to action.

The investigation revealed the total amount of funds in the Saints' pool may have reached $50,000 or more at its height during the 2009 playoffs. The "bounty" system paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off," with payouts doubling or tripling during the postseason.

"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity."

Information from Jeff Dickerson and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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