The New Orleans Saints Player Who Lost Money Hurting People

Slate's Culture Blog
March 2 2012 4:49 PM

The New Orleans Saints: Vicious—and Cheap?

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Bobby McCray of the New Orleans Saints sacksJ.T. O'Sullivanof the San Francisco 49ers in2008.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, the NFL announced that the New Orleans Saints violated league rules by placing “bounties” on opposing players during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons. According to the NFL’s news release:

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

the investigation showed that Saints players received $1,500 for a “knockout” hit and $1,000 for a “cart-off” hit with payouts doubling or tripling during the team's three playoff appearances. The program also entailed payments for interceptions and fumble recoveries, which also violates league rules against non-contract bonuses.
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Given the salaries NFL players earn, these figures seem rather puny. Indeed, if these dollar amounts are correct, the Saints player who targeted the opposition most fervently during the team’s 2010 Super Bowl run—reserve defensive end Bobby McCray—almost certainly took a loss for his efforts.

In the Saints’ divisional-round game against Arizona, McCray laid out Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner with a brutal crackback block after an interception by teammate Will Smith. Though the hit didn’t draw a flag, it seemed unnecessarily vicious in the context of the action.

The next week against the Vikings, McCray pummeled the Vikings’ Brett Favre after the aged signal-caller handed the ball to Percy Harvin. This time, McCray incurred a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

Later in the same game, McCray hit Favre below the knees, from behind, as the quarterback threw an interception to Jonathan Vilma. As with his hit on Warner, McCray was not penalized for this shot (skip ahead to the 2:05 mark).

After the Saints’ win against Minnesota, the NFL fined McCray $20,000 for his two hits on Favre. Given that neither Warner nor Favre were knocked out nor carted off the field—Warner left the game briefly but eventually returned—it seems that the Saints’ bounty program did McCray no favors. The fines and the bounties, though, are small change compared to McCray’s $1,000,000 base salary for the 2009-2010 season. And it wouldn’t be accurate to say that McCray took a loss on the 2010 postseason: Like every player on the Saints, he raked in an $83,000 bonus—the winners’ share for the Super Bowl champion.

Update, 5:30 p.m.: Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has more details on the Saints’ bounty program, including that “linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered any defensive teammate $10,000 in cash to knock then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the [NFC title] game.” As Favre finished the game, that bounty presumably went uncollected by Bobby McCray or anyone else.

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