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Latest bounty report exposes another flaw in bounty evidence

Jeff Backus, Riley Reiff

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus (76) talks with Riley Reiff (71) after NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Monday, June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


On Wednesday, Sean Pamphilon handed another bounty baton to Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, and Silver in turn reported that a pair of Saints defenders received payment for “whacks” in the wild-card playoff win over the Lions. What wasn’t reported could be a bigger problem for the league’s stubborn insistence that the Saints used a bounty system.

As Silver explains it, the NFL believes that cash paid to safety Roman Harper and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar constitutes more evidence of a pay-for-injury system. An unnamed Saints source tells Silver that “whack” was simply the term former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams used for a good, clean hit.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma elaborated on Twitter, in response to Silver’s report. “A whack is a legal low tackle,” Vilma said.

But the primary purpose of this insomnia-driven post is to shine a light on something that apparently wasn’t recorded by Pamphilon the night before the Saints faced the 49ers in the divisional round. When Williams was handing out envelopes full of cash from the prior weekend’s game, no one got paid for a “cart-off,” which loosely has been interpreted as a hit that inflicts an injury that causes an offensive player to leave the game, regardless of whether a cart was involved.

But in the win over the Lions, Detroit tackle Jeff Backus suffered a torn biceps, and he left the game.

“A guy made an inside move and I went to hook him with my arm and my bicep popped,” Backus said at the time.

Thus, under the NFL’s narrative regarding the three-year bounty program, the guy who made the inside move should have received before the 49ers game payment for inflicting an injury on Backus that knocked him out of the game. But Pamphilon’s tape doesn’t reflect any payment to whoever was responsible for the Backus absence.

One explanation would be that, with the NFL once again investigating the Saints, Williams ditched the “cart-off” prizes. Then again, handing out cash for “whacks” and strongly hinting (at a minimum) that more cash would be available whoever knocked quarterback Alex Smith out of the next game, all while a microphone was capturing everything Williams said, suggests that Williams didn’t succumb to an uncharacteristic burst of discretion.

The logic is fairly simple. If the Saints were paying players who injured opponents, whoever injured Backus should have been paid. If, as it appears, whoever injured Backus wasn’t paid, it’s possible that players were paid for something other than inflicting injuries.