Artis Hicks denies saying the Vikings had a regular bounty program that saw cash change hands between coaches and players for injuring “someone special.”
Hicks, a former NFL offensive lineman who played for the Vikings from 2006 to 2009, was a critical voice in a section of author Jeff Pearlman’s biography on Brett Favre that claimed the Vikings, during the 2008 and ’09 seasons, regularly collected and distributed money as rewards for injuring specified opponents.
In the book released last week, Hicks is quoted as saying: “It was part of the culture,” adding he had coaches “start a pot and all the veterans put in an extra $100, $200, and if you hurt someone special, you get the money.”
In a phone conversation with the Star Tribune on Sunday night, Hicks denied telling Pearlman the Vikings ran a bounty program as detailed in the Favre biography “Gunslinger.” Hicks also said he never mentioned a coach was involved.
“No, I never told him any specifics,” Hicks said. “I never named names, I never said … Only thing I told him as far as specifics was I had been part of a meeting where players were amongst ourselves as part of a unit. We kind of felt like the last time we played the team, they kind of did some dirty things to our running back or quarterback. When we played them again later in the year it was, ‘Hey, when you get a chance to get this guy, dinner is on me.’ That was as detailed as I got. Again, it was never any specifics on what team I was with or anything like that.”
Former Vikings coach Brad Childress and linebacker Ben Leber were among the chorus to deny a bounty program last week. Current Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, who was drafted by Minnesota in 2007, said “I haven’t heard of any bounty program since I got here.”
A meeting similar to what Hicks described was mentioned in Pearlman’s book, though one involving a coach.
Pearlman wrote that a Vikings coach, during the 2008 season, offered $500 for a player to take out Packers linebacker Nick Barnett from an upcoming game. Pearlman wrote “Minnesota’s coaches stewed” after the previous meeting with the Packers, in which “they were convinced that Nick Barnett, Green Bay’s outstanding linebacker, had gone out of his way to injure Adrian Peterson.”
Hicks was asked if the “players-only” meeting he referenced Sunday night took place with the Vikings.
“It didn’t,” Hicks said. “My time there was nothing but a good experience. The Vikings are a first-class organization. Coach [Brad] Childress, man, did everything by the books. I never used Vikings or any other team when I talked to [Pearlman] about that.”
However, dinners and “small pots” of money were exchanged between players for injuring opponents, Hicks said. He declined to give an example, saying at no time during his 11 NFL seasons, which also included stops with the Eagles, Redskins, Browns and Dolphins, was a coach involved in rewards for inflicting injuries.
These types of side payments were common among players when he played in the NFL, Hicks said.
“Coaches didn’t know about things like that,” Hicks said. “A lot of it happens within the locker room. If there was a game and you were with your guys and you felt a guy dove at your knees or tried to hurt you, next time you played them, coaches don’t have to get involved in that. Players take it on themselves.
“In the game, if there was an instance if something like that occurred, you’d rally around your guys and say ‘hey, number so-and-so, when you get a chance, get him out. You know, I got y’all, dinner on me.’ That’s just part of football. That’s just looking out for your guys. You’re not trying to take anybody out or end any careers.”
Hicks added that while his words were incorrectly portrayed by Pearlman, a sportswriter and accomplished biographer, he has no problems with the author.
“[Pearlman] felt the need to interpret that how he wanted, and I have no problem with it,” Hicks said. “He’s trying to sell books. I hope he sells as many as he can. It’s not going to hurt me, it’s not going to hurt the Vikings, and it’s not going to hurt the NFL. This is seven years old, man. More power to him.”