Bucs once complained about Saints cheap shots
The NFL dropped a bombshell today when it announced a long-running investigation into the Saints that found the team was running a bounty program for big defensive hits against opponents, including things called "knockout" hits.
The time period in question, according to the league, is 2009 to 2011, during which they played the Bucs six times. So, did anything happen in their meetings that could be linked to this breaking news?
Without having had the chance to question Tampa Bay players at length, we found a possible answer to this question in a story I wrote in 2010. During a meeting with the Saints, New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins hit Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman as he was running out of bounds, drawing a late hit penalty.
But Freeman went after Jenkins after the play, saying Jenkins tried to hit him in the knees. Later in the week, Jenkins was fined $10,000. Here's what Freeman had to say:
"If you want to try to hit me, hit me high. I thought it was completely unnecessary and cheap to take a shot at my knees."
Said former Bucs tight end John Gilmore: "There was a lot of unnecessary stuff going on out there. To be up 24-0 and feel the need to take cheap shots like that, I can't understand it."
Most notably: Several players told me privately after the game that it wasn't the first time they'd experienced such actions in games against the Saints. They contended that the Saints were, basically, a dirty team and consistently engaged in "cheap shots."
Today's news does nothing to invalidate those claims.