If you think that defensive players are the only ones capable of putting bounties on opponents -- paying teammates to exact physical retribution of any stripe -- on the field, former receiver Cris Carter is here to give you a nice little reality check. Carter, who caught 1,101 passes in his 16-year career and may be the best eligible player not in the Hall of Fame, told Mike Hill and Mark Schlereth of ESPN Radio on Tuesday that he did indeed pay what he called "protection money" to do what needed to be done.
"I'm guilty of [bounties] -- I mean, first time I've ever admitted it -- but I put a bounty on guys before," Carter said. "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!"
Carter admitted that the bounties were financial in nature, but that the intentions were not the same as the ones put out by Gregg Williams and his New Orleans Saints players -- these were more about "an eye for an eye" than "kill the head and the body will die."
"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," he said. "It wasn't to maim or hurt the dude," said Carter, who retired from the NFL following the 2002 season. "When a guy said he was going to hurt me, my recourse was to put a bounty on him to make sure."
On ESPN's "Mike and Mike" show on Wednesday morning, Carter explained exactly how the process worked.
"When you come out onto the field, you're getting ready to run the first play, and you see the guy across the line, and [he says]. 'If you come across the middle, I'll end your career.' Well, no problem, because you ain't gonna end my career! I've got a wife to take care of, and two kids, and a couple of houses, and several cars, and I'm gonna protect that. So I go to Randall McDaniel, who's the left guard, and an All-Pro, and I say, 'Bill Romanowski is acting a fool -- I need some protection.' I go to Todd Steussie, the left tackle, and say, 'Keep an eye on Romanowski.' I go to Korey Stringer, the right tackle, and say, "Hey, big Korey, I've got some fools [out there] -- keep an eye on Romanowski.' It goes something like that."
What does "keep an eye on Romanowski" mean?
"I know you might find this kinda hard, but in football, you're going to get tackled," Carter told ESPN's Mike Greenberg. "There's only a certain amount of protection you can get. You're just trying to get protection against the extra activity." Carter said that retribution could come against a targeted defender in pile-ups, or on plays where Carter was not specifically targeted and the officials might be looking the other way.
"I'm not asking for any extra protection if it's a cornerback or safety, but if it's a linebacker coming in on me, I expect a lineman to be able to handle that. There is no pure protection from everyone -- you don't want that -- but it's just to create an even playing field so that you can concentrate on your assignment and your job."
One suspects that Carter is far from the only NFL player -- past or present -- who's availed himself of this kind of protection against the extracurricular activities of defenders. Especially in decades past, when the on-field code was less stringent when it came to the culture of intimidation, you can imagine an offensive lineman blocking for John Elway, or the tight end who isn't going to the Super Bowl if that New York Giants defensive end keeps hitting Joe Montana in his already-injured back, going out of his way to ensure that equal playing field. That defenders may have had specific bounties on him makes Carter's statements less black-and-white. Was this a weird case of self-defense in an NFL that let these things go on?
"I don't regret it," Carter said. "It's a part of the game. I have a clear conscience with God, and a clear conscience with my family. I feel like I did everything for us to win."
On the Saints' practices, however, Carter had a different take when asked if intentional injury for money was commonplace in the NFL at any time. "The Saints took a model that most teams have, and they put a little extra on it."
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