Artis Hicks (#79), formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, says the team had a bounty program during his days with the club. Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

We’re doing the Bountygate thing again

Bountygate seems like eight or nine major NFL scandals ago, though it’s back this week, baby. It was revealed in an advance excerpt from the new Brett Favre biography by Jeff Pearlman that former Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks said that the team had a bounty program similar to the Saints during the 2009 season, though that claim was disputed or at least challenged by former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber , as well as punter Chris Kluwe.

The Vikings’ use of bounties may have not been as extensive as the Saints, but even if they were only mentioned in offensive team meetings, it’s yet another example that bounties were a prevalent part of NFL culture for a long time, a sentiment that’s been echoed by quite a few NFL players over the years.

Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter admitted in 2012 that he knew of bounties placed on opponents when he was a member of the Eagles and the Vikings. That Buddy Ryan’s teams in Philly used bounties shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone, as opponents frequently accused his team of having them. Former safety Matt Bowen said there were bounties when he was a safety in Washington under Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator of that penalized Saints team who is now working in the same capacity with the Los Angeles Rams

Back in 2008, just a year before the Bountygate scandal, Terrell Suggs bragged to a radio host about the Ravens having a bounty out on Steelers receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall right after Ray Lewis knocked Mendenhall out for the season with a shoulder injury. Suggs walked back those comments when the ensuing outrage caught up with him, though there’s certainly reason to be skeptical.

Whether you choose to believe someone on a case-to-case basis is beside the point, which is that bounties were a regular practice, one for which the Saints were made an example. You could argue the same thing with the Patriots and Deflategate, and that’s probably true, given the comments Aaron Rodgers made about the way he preferred footballs be tampered with to his liking before games.

Getting rid of bounties was a necessary thing for the league in its campaign to at least appear safer, though from an NFL PR standpoint it was more convenient to pretend bounties were only being used by one renegade team instead of league-wide. Maybe the Saints used them more extensively than most, but they weren’t hard to find elsewhere.

This might be ancient history since the penalties the Saints accrued from the league have all come and gone. As the league is dealing with the fallout of another domestic violence case where the assailant was given a shorter suspension than he should have received, this is reminder that doing things arbitrarily has been the norm for the NFL in all matters.

Richard Sherman has a spell for getting away with pass interference

And now time for the whimsical side of midweek NFL pressers, with Richard Sherman dressing up as a student from Hogwarts to talk with the media. He didn’t shy away from the tough questions, however. We now know five quarters of football is more rigorous than five quarters of Qudditch, so take that, Quidditch Twitter.

Before you rob an NFL player, remember they have hidden cameras

Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware came home on Monday night following the win over the Texans to find his house had been robbed. Not even 30 hours after he tweeted about it, Denver police let the world know that suspects had been arrested and the stolen property had been recovered. Let this be a lesson that even though you know an NFL player is going to be gone for a specific stretch of time, it’s not a good idea to try to break into their home. Also, if anyone tries to connect this incident to anthem protests in any way, you should definitely ignore them.

These crappy games sure are close

Hey friends, you know how the principal narrative surrounding this NFL season is how viewership is down and the quality of games is poor and everything about the league is depressing? It’s funny how wrong that is, according to this one NFL PR guy. It’s actually that the games are incredibly close. Like that 6-6 tie between Seahawks and Cardinals this past Sunday night. It was so close, there was never actually a definitive winner decided. And while I’m making fun of the grinding nature of the first 70 or so minutes of that game, the last five minutes of screwball madness was pure magic. I hope we get 10 more absurd ties before the season is over.

The n-word: Still occasionally banned

Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee said that he was flagged during Sunday’s loss to the Raiders for using the N-word on the field, though he said it was in response to Oakland players using it. This naturally has reignited discussion about the NFL banning all uses of it on the field in the the first place, which is a odd thing to police between black players. Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert, who is black, told Sports Illustrated that the N-word is said on the field “all the time”. “The only way that it gets called is if the referee is right up on you and you say it to the person,” Tolbert said. “But we say it on the field all the time, to be honest. We say it to each other. You run somebody over, and you talk trash, and they talk trash back. It's part of [the game].” So this seems like an penalty like holding that could conceivably be called on every play, though only does when it’s incredibly obvious to a particular official.

Red Zone bathroom pass

NFL watchability ratings are generally pointless. Everyone has access to the same prime time games and their quality typically corresponds to the night they’re broadcast. Sunday night is the best, Monday night is next, then there’s Thursday night and its unspeakable horrors.

Instead, here’s my expectation of how many bathroom breaks you might be able to get away with during a slate of games on Sunday. It’s generally going to be more difficult during the early slate because the NFL still insists on frontloading most of their Sunday nights into the early slot.

This Sunday kicks off with the last London game of the season. Not the last international game, mind you, because there’s still one left in Mexico in a few weeks, but this marks the end of waking up ass early on Sunday to watch the NFL, at least for this year. So that’s nice.

London game: Washington at Cincinnati 

Even though the Bengals have been a disappointment, they’re still only a game out of first in the suddenly extremely mediocre AFC North. Washington’s loss to Detroit on Sunday put them a game and a half behind Dallas, and they need a win if they don’t want to have to start counting on the Cowboys to fall off to keep pace. So it’s only a marginally significant game in the grand scheme, but that’s pretty good so far as London games are concerned.

Expected breaks: Two

Early slate: New England at Buffalo / Arizona at Carolina / New York Jets at Browns / Detroit at Houston / Kansas City at Indianapolis / Seattle at New Orleans / Oakland at Tampa Bay

The Bills were looking pretty strong there for a while, and then they got rolled by Miami in Week 7. Still, they can hold their heads high knowing they shut out the Patriots once this season. Unlikely they’ll do it again, even at home, with Tom Brady playing now, but it should be fun to watch them try for a few minutes. Elsewhere, that Chiefs-Colts game could be interesting and Raiders-Bucs is probably the most important that matchup has been since Super Bowl XXXVII.

Expected breaks: One

Late slate: San Diego at Denver / Green Bay at Atlanta

Expected breaks: Two

Really, only two late games? Sweet Jiminy Christmas. I know there are teams on bye, but the league could split the amount of games more evenly than 7 to 2 between the time slots. Either way, for only two games, these aren’t horrible ones, yet after already six hours on watching you likely need a few breathers.

Mike Tunison is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va. and the former editor of Kissing Suzy Kolber. You can follow him at @xmasape on Twitter.

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