Last week I took a deeper look at the Saints defensive penalty history during the Gregg Williams years just to see whether it jived with the now-popular public perception that the Saints are a "dirty" team (we've got Bountygate to thank for that). I think the stats showed this is not a defense with any noticeable intent to injure, certainly not much more so than any other.
But I failed to mention one other result of my findings: Roman Harper might have played a little dirty in 2011.
Okay, so that that might not be a huge revelation to most Saints fans. Let's face it, this isn't the first time this topic has been discussed. Remember what Titans receiver Nate Washington had to say about Harper following their matchup last year, after which Harper was fined $22,500 for separate helmet-to-helmet and facemask penalties?
"Honestly, he's a dirty player," Washington said. "We watched film on him, he's dirty. And I don't appreciate it, I'm going to step out in public and say it: He's dirty. That was dirty what he did, it's unfortunate that he grabbed the facemask - at the same time you don't walk over a guy and nudge him with your knee. You don't do that. That's dirty. And honestly, that's a dirty player, flat out. This is not just one game. He's been doing it all season. And I'm tired of it. I hope the league did something about it."
In case you weren't counting at home, that was six times that Washington used the word dirty.
One dirty game a dirty player does not make, however. Right? Unfortunately, as I said earlier, Harper's penalty statistics from 2011 don't do him any favors. Peep 'em:
Harper was flagged for 89 yards in 2011, the most on the team. The next most penalized player on the Saints defense was rookie defensive end Cam Jordan, who was flagged half the number of times and for more than half the amount of yards.
And it's not how many times he was penalized or how many yards it cost the team that's off-putting either. It's the type of penalties: two for unnecessary roughness, two for roughing the passer, a personal foul and a 15-yard face mask. Those are all considered to be more in the "dirty" genus.
So there's your evidence but is it enough to convict? Do you think Roman Harper is a dirty player?