Still remembering bounty scandal, Sean Payton says NFL will overlook James Harrison's Mike Tomlin claim

Jack Baer
·3-min read

A claim from former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison about head coach Mike Tomlin and an envelope has rousted memories of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal for some.

The head coach involved in the decade-old scandal has some thoughts on it as well.

Sean Payton says NFL will sweep James Harrison’s claim under the rug

During an appearance on the “Going Deep” podcast, Harrison was asked about the biggest fine he received in his fine-heavy career. His answer was his infamous hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, which led to a $75,000 fine from the league.

Then, unprompted, Harrison had this to say:

“Listen, everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about, max, 50 percent of what I had, and I just hit because I wanted him to let loose of the ball. If I had known they were going to fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him. Dude, I’m telling you, 75?

“I ain’t going to lie to you. When that happened, right? The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that. I ain’t going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”

FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. The 2020 NFL Draft is April 23-25. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
Sean Payton has some thoughts on James Harrison's curious claim about Mike Tomlin. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Harrison didn’t disclose what the envelope contained, but people didn’t have to use much imagination to know what he was getting at.

If Tomlin were to have reimbursed or even rewarded Harrison for his fine over a helmet-to-helmet hit — which Tomlin said at the time was legal — that would certainly be reminiscent of the scandal that resulted in the Saints being hit with a $500,000 fine, forfeiture of multiple draft picks and a year-long suspension for Sean Payton.

Still smarting from the NFL’s handling of the matter a decade later, Payton said during a radio appearance that he doesn’t expect the NFL to handle Harrison’s claim seriously.

The Steelers are probably hoping Payton is right, as Tomlin is still employed by the team and would likely face punishment if the league found he gave Harrison money under the table following a fine.

Steelers owner Art Rooney II said in a statement that the story was untrue and questioned why Harrison would make such a claim.

Harrison’s agent has also denied the exchange between Harrison and Tomlin occurred.

In the hours since Harrison’s comments emerged, the NFL has declined comment on the matter, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

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