John Sullivan and Brett Favre (Tom Dahlin/VU)
Vikings center John Sullivan was direct and to the point when asked about his assessment of “Bountygate.” He called the intent to injure “despicable” and “disgusting” and said he hopes the union doesn’t come to the defense of those who did it.
Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan is generally one of the more low-key, even-keeled players on the team, but during an interview Friday on KFAN AM-1130, there was one topic about which he spoke passionately: Bountygate.
Sullivan was in his first year as a starter for the Vikings when they went to the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Playing against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings lost in overtime and the Saints have subsequently been found to offer bounties for injuring players from 2009-11, including a bounty with the intent of taking then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game.
Favre injured his ankle badly on a high-low hit from defensive linemen Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray. But there were other hits on Favre that Sullivan recalled, mentioning shots that Sharper and McCray administered to Favre’s face.
“When it comes down to it, it’s despicable to offer money to hurt people,” Sullivan said.
"If you want to offer money to knock somebody out of a game on a clean hit, fine. But the guys that went after it in the wrong way, that's the exact opposite of sportsmanship. It's just disgusting. To think that you're going to take money to hit someone illegally and hurt them and put them out of the game, I can't even fathom that somebody would do that."
The NFL came down on the Saints this week after concluding an investigation that entailed 50,000 pages. Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the 2012 season (costing him $7.5 million), general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended without pay for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was given a six-game suspension. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who administered payment of the bounties, according to the NFL’s findings, was suspended indefinitely, with a review at the end of the season. Williams left the Saints this offseason to become the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams.
“I think so far what’s happened is fair. I don’t think there’s any precedent for what’s going on,” Sullivan said. “I think Commissioner (Roger) Goodell handled it the correct way in terms of what’s going on with their coaching and front-office people.”
Sullivan did say, however, that he believes Loomis’ suspension would be more costly if enforced at this time of year, when trying to run free agency and the draft.
As for the players involved in delivering what Sullivan views as illegal hits, he believes even those who are now out of the league, like McCray and Sharper, shouldn’t be allowed to have any association with the NFL or be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I have a hard time talking about it,” Sullivan said. “It just disgusts me that you would go out there and try to hurt somebody and take away their livelihood. It's just gross."
Discipline for the players involved has not been meted out yet. The NFL said it would meet with the NFL Players Association to determine the appropriate punishment. The NFLPA issued a statement Thursday saying that hasn’t happened yet.
“NFLPA leadership looks forward to meeting with the Commissioner to discuss the League's 'Bounty' investigation. To date, neither the League, nor the Saints, have helped us facilitate interviews with members of management or the coaching staff,” the union’s statement said. “We expect the League to provide all information so that we can ensure a fair process for all who were involved.”
Sullivan said he hopes the union doesn’t defend those who profited from the bounties.
"As a union member, I'll be very upset if we come to the defense of these acts," he said. "These actions are indefensible. You can't defend it. It's despicable, has no place in the sport."
Sullivan said he still hasn’t watched the game in full, saying it hurts too much.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.