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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
AFC North coaches address bounties

By Jamison Hensley

The AFC North is known for bone-jarring hits, intense rivalries and verbal jabs among players. But bounties have never been an issue for any team in this division, according to the AFC North coaches.

"It's not something that's been a part of our culture in any situation I've been in," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the NFL owners meetings. "I don't know what generates that kind of atmosphere."

The NFL announced harsh penalties last week against the New Orleans Saints for paying cash bonuses to players for injuring opponents, including a year-long suspension for coach Sean Payton.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Payton "a great friend" having coached against him in college in the 1980s and coached with him as part the Eagles staff in 1998.

"I think he’s a great coach and he’ll be back winning a bunch of football games. But I respect what the league did, I respect what Roger did," Harbaugh said. "I think it sends a message. It’s smart, it’s courageous and it’s the right thing to do. I know one thing, me like everyone else will fight like crazy to make sure that that’s not an issue in the future. But it’s an important statement to make and player safety is the No. 1 issue. Integrity of the game is important.”

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he's never had to deal with bounties in his 21 years of coaching in the NFL and doesn't feel the need to address it with his team.

"I never felt like I had to because I think our coaches already understood," Lewis said. "That's one of the things in our fine system."

Browns coach Pat Shumur said the team is in a wait-and-see mode on whether linebacker Scott Fujita will be disciplined by the NFL. Fujita recently said he paid teammates for big plays when he was a member of the Saints in 2009, but not for intentionally injuring players.

"We were not involved in that at all," Shumur said said. "I do think that player safety and the integrity of the game is very important for us to embrace that."