Free-agent tight end Jeremy Shockey fired back at NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, claiming there is no way he would ever have been the source of information that led to the bounty investigation by the NFL and severe penalties against the New Orleans Saints.
"It's reckless, it's careless, it's hurtful to me and the great time I had with the Saints," said Shockey, who was accused by Sapp of being the "snitch" in this story. "Sean Payton is a father figure to me. I would never do that to him or to the Saints."
[ Michael Silver: Roger Goodell will not tolerate lying, disrespect ]
Shockey then twice offered to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.
The accusation by Sapp threatens to undercut the NFL's policy of protecting sources. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly said the league would protect "whistleblowers" who reported violations of league policy.
The NFL Network is owned by the NFL. Sapp initially made his claim about Shockey via Twitter.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello offered no explanation when asked why the NFL Network was allowed to air Sapp's claims or why Sapp, a league employee, was allowed to make the claim in the first place.
However, Sapp's report could have a huge chilling effect on the league's ability to investigate any team. Without protection, particularly from the league itself, there may be no way to get people to come forward with information about violations.
On Wednesday, the league levied heavy penalties on the Saints, including a one-year suspension of Payton and the loss of two second-round draft picks, and on former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely.
From there, Sapp went on NFL Network to defend his source, going so far as to say: "My source that was close to the situation informed me that Jeremy Shockey is the one that was the snitch initially. I trust my source unequivocally."
Shockey responded by going on Twitter to offer to take a polygraph and expanded that to say he would take one on live television. He also took several thinly veiled shots at Sapp. The two both played at the University of Miami, although at different times. Shockey said that any loyalty from their common background, "Ended right there" on Wednesday.
"I know Sean Payton's family and I have been around them. I have been to his son's birthday parties. I've had my family around him. We're friends," said Shockey, who scored the winning touchdown in New Orleans' Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts two years ago. "I loved my time in New Orleans and now people are killing me on social media thinking I did this. I love Who Dat nation."
Shockey played for the Saints from 2008 to 2010. He was also coached by Payton prior to that when both men were with the New York Giants.
"I was never in the defensive meeting rooms to know anything about what went on in there and I've never been asked to try and hurt someone on the opposing team. Nobody ever said, 'Oh, go take out [Minnesota defensive end] Jared Allen and you can make some money.' I never been about hurting someone. I've paid guys for getting a big interception or returning a kickoff for a touchdown, if you want to call that a bounty.
"But that was just among the players. When we did that stuff, we told the coaches to leave. I called Heath Evans and Drew Brees to talk to them about this to make sure they knew I would never talk about stuff that happened in the locker room.
"Sapp can say what he wants about me, but if he really says that he'll put his life on the line for his source, we'll see. I've never been a guy who failed multiple drug tests. I've never been divorced. I don't have four kids by four different women. I don't lie. This attacks my character and it's not fair."
More sports news from the Yahoo! Sports Minute:
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Saints sold soul to bring New Orleans a Super Bowl title
• Match made in wildcat heaven with Tim Tebow in Big Apple
• Drew Brees has upper hand in negotiations with Saints
• News: Islamic gunman dead after French standoff, police say