The biggest news around the NFL this offseason has been deflected from the scouting combine, the draft, and where Peyton Manning will land. All because of what is being called as “Bountygate”. It has been leaked out that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had implemented a bounty system for the defense to injure or get key players on the opposing teams offense to take to the sidelines. Williams is also being linked to a similar situation during his tenure with the Washington Redskins. Williams has even come out and said that the allegations are true and is not denying anything.
Since this news broke many ex-players and current players have commented on “Bountygate”. Even Charles Barkley has come out and ripped the “punk” who “snitched” on Gregg Williams. Many players have said that there are common situations on a lot of NFL teams. Maybe that’s true one cannot deny that, but only one team is being accused and investigated with another to follow in the Redskins. It’s possible that any team Gregg Williams was the defensive coordinator will go under the microscope.
Brett Favre, who was the starting quarterback for the Vikings who played against the Saints in the 2009 NFC championship game, has spoken out. It was reported that linebacker Jonathan Vilma put a $10,000 bounty on Favre. “I’m not pissed,” Favre said. “It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys. I would have loved to play with Vilma. Hell of a player. I’ve got a lot of respect for Gregg Williams. He’s a great coach. I’m not going to make a big deal about it. In all honesty, there’s a bounty of some kind on you on every play.” He even said that thinking back on that game that he wouldn’t call it odd, but he remembers thinking during that game that he was being hit on every play. Handoff. Hit. Pass. Hit. He is friends with Darren Sharper and even said to him on a late hit during that game, “What the Hell was that Sharp?”
Eli Manning was asked about the Saint’s bounty system. A team his father played with for 11 seasons. Eli said, “Obviously it is a big deal, what’s going on. It’s not good for football and can’t be a part of football. I know Roger Goodell will do a good job figuring all this out and making sure this doesn’t happen again. “I’m kind of sitting there and I say, ‘I know the opposing teams are saying the same thing about me,’ ” said Manning. “But when you start talking about injuring a guy and carting him off and trying to end his season or career, that’s not what this game is about. I think we should have more respect for the game than that. It can’t be a part of football.’’ That is coming from a current offensive player. A tough one at that who was hit 20 times in the NFC Championship game this past season.
On ESPN, a panel of Tedy Bruschi, Marcellus Wiley, and Mike Golic discussed the bounty system that the Saints are being investigated for. Marcellus Wiley and Mike Golic took a similar stance. They both agreed that bounties are “meaningless” if clean hits are being applied and some money is collected along the way. Golic like Barkley is more upset with the person who “snitched” on Gregg Williams than the actual accusation of head hunting for money. Tedy Bruschi, however took the stance that there is a difference between hitting hard and trying to injure someone. Money incentives can change anybody’s motivation to go out there and take someone out of the game.
I have never played football, actually I have, but I have never played full contact football. So my opinion is not that of someone who has played the game and knows how it is in the locker room etc. I also think depending on what side of the ball you play on will have an impact of your opinion as well as what era you played in. Favre for instance played during the early 90’s, before all these new tackling and quarterback protection rules. It is understandable that he is “not pissed”. He played the game differently from quarterbacks now. He also never got hurt enough to not start the next week as he holds the all time consecutive starts streak. The quarterbacks of today may have a different feeling today, because they have been raised in a league that is expected to protect them. Anything resembling a late hit will be called on the field and fined by Roger Goodell.
Another point that was brought up by Wiley and Golic was whose to say that a clean hit won’t injure someone compared to a “dirty” hit. Players get hurt on clean hits all the time. I have to agree with that statement. In today’s game a “dirty” hit will be exploited by the NFL and that player will be fined and quite possibly suspended a la Ndamukong Suh and his foot stomp. Late hits are often called on the field and later fined, the Steelers linebackers can tell you about that. So as long as the hit is clean nobody should have a problem with it. What most will have a problem with is that a player would receive monetary compensation for injuring someone. I like to think that any athlete would respect their peers and would never want to intentionally injure someone. Let’s put it in a bit more of perspective. Injuring someone is one thing but let’s just say that a bounty had been put on a quarterback and players were motivated to injure said quarterback. They put a hit on the quarterback and paralyze him. Would the defensive player still want that money? Was it worth the extra change? Not at all and I think that’s something that should be taken into consideration with all of this. Wanting to injure someone has probably crossed the minds of many players before, whether or not they to action on it is another thing. I often sit in front of my TV yelling to kill the opposing quarterback. Yes, I’m guilty, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. I don’t in fact wish that the other player is severely injured or that their career ends or that the player that did in fact sideline them get paid for such an accomplishment.
Many NFL players as well as other sports figures are role models to younger kids and players. They are supposed to set a good example for the youth that watches and idolizes them. This does not set a good precedent for them. Roger Goodell will get all the facts together in his investigation. At the very least they should lose a first-round draft pick if not more, be fined quite a bit of money, more than the collective bounties paid out, and possible suspension for the coaches involved. The latter will probably not happen being that Bill Belichick was not suspended nor fired for his “Spygate” scandal several years ago. The Patriots lose a first-round pick and were fined upward of a half million dollars. This scandal is being described as worse than the one the Patriots committed so the penalties should be more harsh. At the same time I think the Pats and “Spygate” had more of an impact on the game than the Saints and “Bountygate”. The Patriots won 3 Super Bowls before word that they were taping the opposing teams walk through became public. They have since been to 2 Super Bowls and have walked away empty handed both times, thanks to my Giants. The Saints have won 1 Super Bowl in a season in which the bounty system was most likely in place. In the Championship game in 2009, a few late hits and in my opinion a few terrible calls later and they were on the way to the Super Bowl. Great play calling in that game brought them home their first Lombardi Trophy. Now that the scandal is out and looking in retrospect to that game against the Vikings many might say, much like people say of the Patriots, that championship should have an asterisk next to it. HIndsight is 20/20, but Roger Goodell’s bounty hunting is clearly in the future.