- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Eli Manning has played against the New Orleans Saints twice in the past three seasons.
And the Giants' quarterback says he does not recall a moment when the Saints delivered a dirty or illegal hit.
But one thing Manning does know, is that there is no place in the NFL for defensive players placing bounties to intentionally hurt offensive players.
"I don't remember a specific thing that was dirty or illegal or someone going low," Manning said of facing the Saints, while attending a premier screening of the "Super Bowl XLVI Champions: New York Giants" DVD in Times Square.
"But obviously it is a big deal what is going on. It is not good for football and can't be a part of football. I know [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell will do a good job of figuring all this out and make sure this doesn't happen again."
According to an NFL report last Friday, an investigation found that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and several Saints players employed an illegal bounty system that financially rewarded defensive players for big plays and knocking out opposing offensive players from 2009 to 2011.
The Giants lost to the Saints twice during that span. Last year, they were routed 49-24 in New Orleans. During that game, the Saints were penalized for a roughing-the-passer penalty, two unnecessary roughness penalties and a personal foul. Two Giants players also suffered ankle injuries during that loss, but both were defensive players (Osi Umenyiora and Mark Herzlich).
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks absorbed a huge hit from defensive back Isa Abdul-Quddus in the third quarter on an attempted catch over the middle. The hit, which Nicks called the first big hit he took in his career, temporarily forced the wideout out of the game and Abdul-Quddus was penalized for a 15-yard personal foul. Nicks did return to the game.
During the second quarter, defensive back Tracy Porter was flagged for unnecessary roughness after Nicks was pushed out of bounds following a catch.
Nicks said he did not remember the Porter penalty but he clearly recalls the Abdul-Quddus hit. The Giants receiver said he took more of an exception to how Abdul-Quddus reacted to the hit rather than the hit itself which he says is a part of playing football.
"I remember," he said when asked about how the Saints defensive back reacted after the hit. "I take notes. I don't think there was nothing more to it. It was me going up for a pass, he had an opportunity to make a hit and he made the hit."
"The way he was celebrating, you would probably think that," Nicks added when asked if looking back now he thought there was a bounty based on Abdul-Quddus' reaction. "But I came back in the game. Playing professional football, you are going to take a hit."
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and safety Antrel Rolle both said the Giants' defense does not employ a bounty system and that they do not try to intentionally hurt offensive players.
"I've never been a part of that," Rolle said. "It is kind of unfortunate that something like that has been brought upon this league. You never want to go out there with the intention to injure another opponent. That is people's livelihoods. There's no price you can put on the health of another opponent."
The Giants' defensive ends do compete with one another to get as many sacks and make as many plays as possible. But Pierre-Paul said the Giants don't try to knock out players on purpose.
"We don't intentionally hurt quarterbacks," the defensive end said. "We just go out there and play the game and play football within the rules. We don't try to go out there and physically hurt quarterbacks and knock them out of the game. Nobody wants to see a quarterback go out on purpose."
"[During Giants games in the 2010 season] we had a whole bunch of quarterbacks [get] knocked out but that was from just playing physical football," Pierre-Paul added. "There wasn't no, go out there and sack this quarterback for $10,000. We just play physical football. Look at our D-line, we are physical."
Manning said he understands that a defense's main goal is to get after the opposing quarterback. But trying to send a player off the field on a cart is inexcusable.
"I hear what Coach [Tom] Coughlin tells our defense about getting hits and I'm kind of sitting there and I know the opposing team is saying the same thing about me," he said. "But when you start talking about injuring a guy and carting him off and trying to possibly end a season or a career, that is not what this game is about. We have more respect for the game than that and it can't be a part of football."
Eli Manning has played against the New Orleans Saints twice in the past three seasons. And the Giants' quarterback says he does not recall a moment when the Saints delivered a dirty or illegal hit.