- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Although his franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, was one of four players named as specific targets in the Saints’ bounty program, Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn’t anticipate further problems with the Panthers and Saints.
“I'd be surprised if there's any retribution, I really would,’’ Rivera said during a breakfast for NFC coaches Wednesday morning at the owners meetings.
The NFL report announcing the Saints’ punishment, listed Newton and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers as well as retired quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner as players that specifically were targeted for injury. As NFC South opponents, the Saints and Panthers play each other twice a season.
“When we play them it's not going to be about that,’’ Rivera said. “It's going to be us playing them trying to win our division. And that's what it should be. It should be about the game, and not what happened.’’
That’s a good message, and I’m sure Rivera will share it with his team before playing the Saints next season. Rivera’s a coach that is respected by his players and his words could keep things from getting out of hand on the field. But NFL players are intense competitors and I’m sure at least some of the Panthers will have added motivation against the Saints because they know that team was trying to injure their quarterback.
Rivera also weighed in on another issue related to the Saints’ bounty program. Former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey was accused by former NFL defensive lineman and current television analyst Warren Sapp of being “the snitch’’ that started the investigation into the bounty program. Shockey, who played for Carolina last season and currently is a free agent, has issued strong denials.
“If you know Jeremy Shockey, you know that's not Jeremy Shockey,’’ Rivera said. “I know there was an insinuation that he had been the guy. But that's not Jeremy's makeup. That's not who Jeremy Shockey is. Jeremy Shockey's a guy that, if there was something going on, that's their business. I would be surprised, I really would. It wouldn't hurt him in my eyes either way because first of all I think Jeremy Shockey's a tremendous person. I think he's also a very good football person -- a football personality who understands this game.’’