Cris Carter admits to bounties

Updated: May 9, 2012, 3:30 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Minnesota Vikings All-Pro receiver Cris Carter says he put "bounties" on opposing players as a form of protection during his 16-year NFL career.

Carter, currently an ESPN NFL analyst, said Tuesday night on "Hill and Schlereth" on ESPN Radio that he would offer money to teammates to take out players he thought were trying to take him out.

"I'm guilty of (bounties) -- I mean, first time I've ever admitted it -- but I put a bounty on guys before," Carter told show hosts Mike Hill and Mark Schlereth. "I put bounties on guys. If a guy tries to take me out, a guy takes a cheap shot on me? I put a bounty on him right now!"

When asked whether the bounties carried financial incentive, Carter said: "Absolutely."

Carter clarified his comments Wednesday morning in an appearance on ESPN's "SportsCenter," emphasizing that there was no intent to injure an opponent -- as the NFL alleges was the case in the Saints' "pay for pain" system. Carter acknowledged that using the term "bounty" may have been a poor choice of words on his part.

"The difference is people going out of their way to hurt a player," Carter said Wednesday, "hitting a spot that we as players know is off limits, like his knees. You're not telling them to go out and get someone, you're telling them to protect you, run down the field to protect their skill guys."

On Tuesday, Carter, a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the past five years, said it was a matter of protecting himself from players at a different position, such as linebacker.

"I'd tell one of them guards, 'Hey man, this dude is after me, man,'" Carter said.

The 46-year-old spoke of former Pro Bowl linebacker Bill Romanowski, then with the Denver Broncos, threatening to hurt him in pregame warm-ups.

"Bill Romanowski -- he told me he was going to take me out before the game, warm-ups. No problem. (He said,) 'I'm gonna end your career, Carter.' No problem.

Carter Romo says, well the bounty didn't work ... yes it did work. It absolutely did work because I got through the game healthy. Here I am 46 years old and I never had a concussion. Here I am 46 years old and I don't have memory loss.

-- Cris Carter, responding to Bill Romanowski on "The Herd"
"I put a little change on his head before the game. Protect myself. Protect my family. That's the league that I grew up in," Carter said.

Romanowski was a guest Wednesday on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio and denied making threats to Carter during an NFL game.

"I never would say a word to anybody, but I tell you what, If you could read my mind," Romanowski said. "Maybe Cris Carter is a mindreader! Maybe he knew what I was thinking."

Romanowski did say that if Carter had put a bounty on him, "it couldn't have been a very good one. It didn't work."

Carter followed Romanowski on "The Herd" and maintained that Romanowski did threaten him and said he thinks it happened in a 2001 game before the first snap. He also said his use of "bounties" during his career was successful because he never suffered a concussion during his career.

"Romo says, well the bounty didn't work ... yes it did work," Carter said Wednesday. "It absolutely did work because I got through the game healthy. Here I am 46 years old and I never had a concussion. Here I am 46 years old and I don't have memory loss ... For me the bounty did work. That was money well spent."

While Carter said he believed the incident with Romanowski occurred in 2001, the game he seems to be talking about happened on Oct. 31, 1999 with the Vikings winning at Denver 23-20. Carter had eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Carter's Vikings didn't play Romanowski's Broncos during the 2001 season.

On Tuesday, when Carter was asked whether Romanowski was the only player to threaten him, Carter responded: "Hell, no.

"Listen, on the football field, you only got certain protection, and your teammates are part of that protection. It's built in, and if I'm playing a certain position where I can't protect myself -- how can the quarterback protect himself? But for his teammates to stand up and do something, there are certain positions you can't protect yourself.

"The center? How can he protect himself? He's snapping the ball every time. Like if someone is taking a cheap shot on him? No problem. We've got a way to work that out."

Carter's comments came one day after New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and three others appealed league-mandated suspensions for their alleged roles in that team's three-year bounty program.

An NFL investigation determined the Saints ran a bounty system from 2009 to 2011 that offered thousands of dollars to players for big hits that knocked opponents out of games. In March, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for all of next season without pay, suspended former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and levied other penalties against the club.

Carter told Hill and Schlereth that during his playing days, bounties weren't meant to be a conduit to purposefully injure other players.

"But you have to realize the league we grew up in, the bounty was based on protection, or a big hit, excitement, or for helping your team win. It wasn't to maim or hurt the dude," said Carter, who retired from the NFL following the 2002 season.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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