By Eric Marmon
This week’s Sports Nickel is dedicated to the New Orleans Bounty System. I got a lot to say about it.
When news broke that Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints were running a bounty system for knocking players out of the game, a plethora of former players (including target Brett Favre) shrugged it off. Many made the case that the practice was actually acceptable, because apparently it’s a lot more commonplace than we think.
Which of course is preposterous.
“Everybody does it” is not an excuse, though I’ve already heard it used not just by professional athletes, but by sports journalists I deeply respect. It doesn’t matter if this is something exclusive to New Orleans or practiced in every single NFL locker room. It’s wrong. And it needs to be stopped.
If you truly, deeply, in your heart-of-hearts believe that something is right, you don’t hide it. The fact that the Saints hid this, lied about it, and took steps to cover it up shows that even they knew what they were doing was despicable.
Football Players are the modern day gladiators. But the human race has come a long way from cheering death and watching people get eaten by tigers.
2) Bounty system – The Money
Perhaps the most underrated aspect is the money itself. Did the Saints have a competitive advantage ‘cause they tried to injure players? You can argue both ways. But one could wonder if the Saints, or any team that offers pay-for-pain programs got an advantage in the off-season.
Think about it: if you’re a free agent and Team A & Team B are offering the same amount of guaranteed money, but you know Team B is paying you to knock mothers out, that’s an under-the-table advantage outside of the rulebook, not to mention off the Salary Cap. So is it an off-season advantage?
Probably not. In the words of The Joker, “It’s not about money. It’s about sending a message.” The Pay-for-Pain system isn’t necessarily why veterans like Darren Sharper (who coincidentally joined New Orleans in the same offseason as Gregg Williams) came to the Big Easy. But like every scandal, BountyGate provides plenty of barstool debate.
3) Bounty System – The Toll On Defenders
As pointed out magnificently by Phil Sheridan, two former NFL players who tragically committed suicide were found to have severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy in their brains. These two players? Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, both of whom played defense, both of whom played safety, and both of whom played under former NFL Coach Buddy Ryan, who was notorious for offering players bounties for knocking opponents out. And before you ask, yes, Gregg Williams once worked under Buddy.
Putting a stop to NFL Bounty’s isn’t just a way of protecting the guys on offense. It’s a way of protecting the defenders from themselves. How many of the guys currently suing the NFL for not doing enough to protect them do you think participated in this kind of stuff?
4) Bounty System – The Abstainers
According to reports, the money used for the bounties came from 22 of the 27 defensive players. Anyone who spent more than fifteen minutes as a teenager is aware of the tremendous power of peer pressure. Accolades should be given to the five unnamed individuals who opted not to participate in this barbaric underground program.
It’s so easy to get swept into something, to ride the wave, go with the group. And it also acts as a fantastic self-defense. The Saints third string cornerback can garner sympathy today simply by saying “All the vets and the coordinator were doing it. What was I suppose to do?”
At least five guys on the Saints defense must have excelled in the D.A.R.E program. Props to those players who just said no. If there really were any.
5) Punishment – What’s the wait?
The investigation on the New Orleans Saints bounty system wasn’t pushed forward by Congressional Interference, ala steroids in baseball. It wasn’t discovered by some sports obsessed Woodward & Bernstein, or the result of some jilted ex-employee seeking vengeance like The Mangenius ratting out Belicheat about Spygate. This was an investigation run and operated by the League offices for over two years.
If Goodell has known about these allegations for the past 24-months, what in Buddy Ryan’s name is taking him so long to dish out some punishment?
I have two theories:
A) Goodell is waiting to gage public opinion. The whole thing is a PR disaster that can only be redeemed by proper punishment. Perhaps the Commish is checking the pulse of the NFLs legions of fans to see what the definition of “proper punishment” is.
B) Punishment is being based on apologies. Goodell has met with Williams, Payton, and General Manager Mickey Loomis, presumably to hear their repentance and let them kiss his hand, Godfather-style. The Commish made sure he met with Michael Vick post-prison before deciding on his suspension… and we damn well knew all the facts in that one. It seems very likely Roger Goodell bases a lot of his punishment judgments on the level of legitimate remorse.
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