Remi Ayodele (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
The wall of silence in the Bountygate case may be showing signs of breaking as the punishments get put further in the past. The words of denial said one thing, the body language another two years ago.
It’s been more than three years since the New Orleans Saints legally assaulted Brett Favre in what came to be known as Bountygate. After two years of investigations and punishments, the Saints are finally starting to talk about the situation and pointing fingers at a former Saint and Viking.
When the Bountygate scandal blew up, one of the reasons Anthony Hargrove got busted was because a video of the Saints sideline showed someone say, “Bobby, give me my money.” But, in the era of rewind, while it was clear that Hargrove said “Bobby” (the name of teammate Bobby McCray), in Zapruder-like film breakdown, many people (including Viking Update) thought it more sense that the “give me my money part of the quote didn’t come from McCray, but rather teammate Remi Ayodele.
Ayodele was part of the high-low hit that knocked Brett Favre down and had him carried to the sidelines in the arms of team trainers and, according to Bountygate documentation, made him (not Hargrove) eligible to be shown the money for taking out Favre.
Over the weekend, Hargrove broke his long silence, telling a New Orleans Times-Picayune writer that it was Ayodele who made the infamous “give me my money” remark. As part of the ignominious first anniversary of the Bountygate suspensions (handed down March 3, 2012), ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” examined the impact of the suspensions and Hargrove throwing Ayodele under the bus.
Ayodele quickly responded via Twitter, maintaining the hard line that not only did he say nothing, but saying that nobody on the Saints defense did – despite audio on the sideline that unmistakably picks up that quote.
It isn’t surprising that Ayodele is maintaining his code of silence and vendetta in Bountygate discussion. Viking Update asked him directly about the Bountygate allegations, which, at the time, didn’t include him as a front-and-center suspect. While other Saints were being accused and eventually suspended, Ayodele maintained not only that he had no part in it, but that Bountygate never existed – despite a mountain of evidence suggesting otherwise.
When Ayodele signed with the Vikings following the lockout in July 2011, I asked him directly when I got him one-on-one down in Mankato whether there was incentive program in place for Saints defenders (I chose not to use the terms “bounty” or “Bountygate”). He seemed surprised by the question because, at the time, few fingers were being pointed in his direction and he may have thought he had left those questions behind him in New Orleans. After a moment of eyeballing me for the audacity to ask the question, he smiled and leaned forward to speak directly into my digital voice recorder, saying, “I don’t know anything about that” – followed by a smile and shoulder shrug as if the question was news to him.
While he gave a classic “non-denial denial” – not claiming it didn’t happen, but rather saying he didn’t know anything about it – his reaction and body language spoke much differently. I came away with the clear impression that he was simply trying to deflect the question, not to go on record as denying it.
Now that Hargrove, who was handed an eight-game suspension that was later overturned by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, has pointed the finger directly at Ayodele, one gets the impression that there are growing cracks in the wall of silence that has marked the Bountygate scandal.
It may take years for the whole truth to come out, but, as we reached the one-year anniversary of the punishment phase of the Bountygate scandal, it would appear the first cracks in the armor of denial have started to come to the surface.
Monday’s official signing of Joe Flacco to a six-year, $120.6 million contract has not only set the bar for the next two young QBs that are in line for megabucks (Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan), it also could be setting the stage for some ugliness between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. In 2008, following the tearful retirement (later rescinded) speech of Brett Favre, the Packers signed the then-unproven Rodgers to a six-year, $63.5 million contract – approximately the same amount Flacco will be paid in the first three years of his deal. Rodgers is set to make $9.75 million this year and $11 million in 2014. To date, Rodgers – widely viewed as the best QB in the NFL – is making half of what guys like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are making. With Flacco added to that list and Stafford and Ryan waiting in the wings to meet or exceed those numbers, it may be time for the Packers to step up and pay Rodgers market value.
Last year, I kidded Adrian Peterson about becoming the new benchmark for players recovering from ACL surgeries – telling him that he has set a new standard for expectations on players returning from such surgeries. That prediction is already coming true. Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, who suffered an ACL tear last October, told CSNHouston over the weekend that Peterson and Jamaal Charles have set changed the mindset for recovery times. “You look at guys like Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson come back and had better years than they’ve ever had before. That’s the bar they’ve set and that the same bar I want to reach,” Cushing said.
Peter King of CNN/SI reported that the NFL is considering opening the NFL Scouting Combine to make it a fan destination. Historically a closed-door affair, last month the NFL opened the doors on a limited basis – allowing 300 fans to attend the workouts. As part of the program, the fans were sent an e-mail survey asking if they would be willing to spend $25 a day to attend the combine in the future. Expect to see the NFL expand the fan experience at the combine starting in 2014. Any time a revenue stream can be created, the NFL typically finds a way to exploit it (see the expanded three-day draft weekend as an example).
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.