GREEN BAY – Included in Wednesday’s news of the NFL’s harsh punishment of the New Orleans Saints for their illegal bounty program was confirmation from the league that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was among the players specifically targeted by the Saints.
The news itself wasn’t entirely new, since multiple reports earlier this month said the reigning NFL MVP was indeed targeted in the teams’ Sept. 8 game. But when the NFL meted out punishment, including a one-year suspension without pay for Saints coach Sean Payton and an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, it confirmed that Rodgers had a bounty placed on him.
According to a March 9 story by Jeff Duncan in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mike Ornstein, a marketing agent and consultant who had a cozy relationship with the Saints coaching staff but was not officially employed by the club, offered a contribution to the bounty pool for any player who knocked the Packers quarterback out of the teams’ regular-season opener at Lambeau Field.
Based on an internal NFL memo sent to all 32 teams about the bounty scandal, CBSSports.com reported that Ornstein on at least four occasions pledged rewards ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to the Saints' bounty pool from 2009 to 2011.
Indeed, on Wednesday, the NFL reported that “the investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams — Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner.”
“Multiple sources have confirmed that several players pledged funs towards bounties on specific opposing players, with defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offering $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game in 2010,” the NFL report said.
As for Rodgers, the NFL reported: “Prior to the Saints’ opening game in 2011, coach Payton received an email from a close associate that stated in part, ‘PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers (sic).’ When shown the email during the course of the investigation, coach Payton stated that it referred to a ‘bounty’ on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.”
That close associate, according to Duncan, was Ornstein.
Ornstein’s bounty didn't have much effect on the game. In the Packers’ 42-34 victory, Rodgers was sacked twice and the Saints registered a total of five quarterback hits in the game, according to the official NFL game book. He took a couple of big hits during the opening drive, which ended in a 7-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, but no hits that were flagged. Rodgers finished the game having completed 27 of 35 passed for 312 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (132.1 rating).
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