INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese said there were no bounties on quarterbacks in his day.
That's because back in the 1970s, knockout attempts were so routine they didn't merit extra payment.
"Everybody would try to get the quarterbacks out of the game back then," Griese said. "They weren't getting paid for it. They would just try to knock you out."
The NFL recently punished the New Orleans Saints heavily for running a bounty program that paid players to injure opponents. Before being honored with a Thomas A. Brady, M.D. Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday, Griese said the notch in the belt for a hard hit was enough for defensive players. He said the emphasis back then was on contact rather than forcing fumbles.
"In today's game, these defensive ends come around, if they've got a blind shot at you, they're not going to try to hit you in the back and try to take you out of the game, they're going to slap the ball out of your hand," the Hall of Famer said. "Back then, Deacon Jones was coming, Ben Davidson was coming, all those guys. They were saying, 'I got (Joe) Namath last week; I got Griese this week.' "
Jones got his knockout in 1972 while playing for the San Diego Chargers. Jones and Ron East broke Griese's ankle and caused him to miss most of the regular season. Griese returned to lead the Dolphins in the playoffs and helped them become the first and only team to go unbeaten and win a Super Bowl.
Griese knows it never was personal.
"It wasn't malicious, it was just hard hitting," he said. "There were no bounties. They kind of knew that if you knock the quarterback out of the game, you had a pretty good chance of winning."
Now, the former Purdue University quarterback says the game is safer.
"The game has evolved and the rules have changed," he said. "It's what people want. It's because the rules have changed and they are protecting the quarterback. You don't want your quarterback knocked out. You want him in there every week, all season long, so you're not watching some third-string guy wishing you had Peyton Manning in there."
That undefeated season still brings back fond memories for Griese. He said he recently spoke with Don Shula, who coached the Dolphins back then, and they reflected on how long their record has stood.
"We were just together the other day, and we were just kind of looking at each other and saying, 'Can you believe it's been 40 years?'"
The New England Patriots nearly went undefeated and won a Super Bowl after the 2007 season. Griese remembers watching the Giants' Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive that kept the Dolphins alone in the record books.
"When he (Plaxico Burress) caught that touchdown pass in the end zone, there was still some time left on the clock," he said. "I'm sitting at home, watching in my office, and phone starts ringing, the emails start coming in. I said, 'Wait, there's still 35, 40 seconds left.' "
The Giants held on and became Griese's second-favorite team.
"I didn't think the Giants could beat them," he said. "I thought the Patriots would go unbeaten for sure. But now, I'm a big Giants fan from now on."
Griese said players from the 1972 team originally just thought of themselves as Super Bowl champions and didn't think the unbeaten record was that big a deal. As the decades have passed, 17-0 has meant more.
"The more it's gone on, we've thought, 'Oh, that must be something really special,' and it really is," Griese said. "It's tough to go undefeated."