This Sunday the Saints will be tasked once again with defending against a familiar nemesis in Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. Considering how poorly the Saints pass defense looked against the Washington Redskins, this should cause some concern.
Fortunately, the Saints defense will be facing a Panthers offense that did not look too blazing hot in a 16-10 opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite not scoring, Smith had a solid game, catching 7 passes for 106 yards. However, with running back Jonathan Stewart sidelined with an injury, the Panthers offese was too one dimensional and they were unable to put up enough points to topple the Bucs.
As a frequent thorn in the side to the Saints defense, Smith made headlines this offseason commenting on Bountygate. During an interview last April, Smith told Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com that a Saints player had admitted to him after a play that the Saints player would be fined if he didn't go after his [Smith's] legs while out of bounds. Smith also added that after the final regular season game between the Saints and Panthers, Gregg Williams admitted it but says that's just who he is.
Smith's comments have led many to point to Roman Harper's late hit on him in the end zone after his touchdown as part of a pay to injure scheme. While it was a cheap shot by Harper, it really didn't seem anywhere close to having the intentional force necessary to inflict injury.
Smith really seems to be the only opposing NFL player to call the Saints out on Bountygate. Considering how defensive the Saints players have been in denying that a pay-for-injure plan didn't exist, will his comments provide them with extra incentive to shut him down?
And even if Smith's comments do provide extra motivation, is the Saints defense even good enough to follow up on it? Saturday's performance against the Redskins and the generous welcome to the NFL party they gave for Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris makes you wonder if they can.
May I suggest, though, that if Roman Harper gets the chance to put another lick on Smith, he not try to do it after Smith scores a touchdown, but instead takes a cue from fellow former Alabama defensive back and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Mark Barron in the following video: