A pair of former Carolina Panthers defenders say Panthers' players would reward teammates for big plays, but it was not the bounty system the New Orleans Saints are accused of using that paid players for hits that knocked opponents out of games.
Mike Minter, who played safety for the Panthers in 1997-2006, said during his years in Charlotte veteran players would offer cash bonuses for momentum-changing plays, particularly on special teams.
While such incentives are against NFL rules, current and former coaches and players said this week that pay-for-big-plays incentives are commonplace in NFL locker rooms.
"We only did it for big plays - interceptions, fumbles, caused fumbles, touchdowns," Minter said Tuesday. "It was more geared toward special teams than anything - a tackle inside the 20 or something like that. As far as that bounty-type stuff, we didn't have that issue."
A league investigation found between 22 and 27 Saints players maintained a bounty system for inflicting injuries on targeted players. Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with St. Louis, oversaw the bounty program, according to the NFL.
The league report determined the Saints had a $50,000 bounty pool in 2009-2011, doling out $1,500 for "knockouts" that caused opponents to leave the game, and $1,000 for "cart-offs" that required players to be helped off the field. Payouts were doubled or tripled during the playoffs.
Quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner were among the opponents targeted.
"I wasn't aware of guys putting bounties out on people," said Minter, who recently took an assistant coaching position at Liberty after serving on Johnson C. Smith's staff last season.
Minter, who started 141 games for Carolina, said the Panthers made sure "we were playing this game as the game's supposed to be played, not going out there putting bounties on people trying to hurt them."
Former safety Sean Considine, released last fall after four games during his only season with the Panthers, wasn't with the team nearly as long as Minter. But Considine had the same experience as Minter in terms of an incentive program.
Considine, who has played for four NFL organizations, said he's never been on a team that employed a bounty.
"That's never gone on anywhere I've been," said Considine, who will become a free agent next week after finishing last season with Arizona. "Coaches every place I've been have never gotten involved in that."
Considine played for Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Philadelphia and Carolina.
Considine, a seven-year veteran, said he has heard older, higher-paid players announce bonus terms at the team hotel the night before the game. Considine said it was more common during playoff games or regular-season games that had postseason implications, with payouts ranging between $500 and $1,000.
"It's just a fun way to add a little bit to the game," Considine said. "It's never been about taking guys out of the game or hurting people, any place I've ever been."
Minter said he was among the Panthers' players who would chip in to the bonus pool for big plays.
"We'd all pony up," he said. "We might be like, 'OK, the first guy to tackle a guy inside the 20, we're going to put $1,000 on it.' That was more of an incentive program that we had. The bounty thing kind of caught me off-guard, that that was going on."
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis took responsibility for the bounty program and vowed it "will never happen again." Williams, who has admitted to running the pool, met with NFL security officials Monday in New York.
The Saints are expected to lose draft picks and face fines as a result of the scandal, and suspensions could be forthcoming for the players and coaches involved.
Minter, who spent his entire career with the Panthers, said the bounty allegations will come under more scrutiny because of Commissioner Roger Goodell's emphasis on making the game safer.
"Right now football is all about player safety," Minter said. "Now that you bring this issue up, of course everybody's going to be looking at it and wondering, 'What's going on?' "