They’re No Saints: NFL Bounty Program

Posted: March 7, 2012 by Kodi in NFL

We’re in the middle of the off-season but the NFL is more relevant than ever

It came out this past week that the New Orleans Saints had instituted a bounty program

Basically players would pool money and whoever took out opposing players would cash in. . .

Roger Goodell would like the NFL to stay relevant in the sporting world during the off-season but not for the wrong reasons. Football is an entertainment and nothing sells like drama, which the NFL has its fair share of with Peyton, the Combine and the NFL Draft. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may be preparing to announce Andrew Luck, RG III and Matt Khalil’s names among many others this April but first he is going to have to review a situation that has arisen with the New Orleans Saints. There has been an NFL investigation initiated over two seasons ago that has come to culmination declaring that the Saints defense had instituted a bounty system.

Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams seemed to have begun a pool with certain defensive players to reward whoever was able to take out a particular player. Williams would dig into his own pockets at times to pitch in to the pool but mostly the bounty money was funded by the players involved. The running bounty was $1,500 for an injured player and another $1000 if they were carted off the field. It seems that 22-27 Saints players were participants from 2009-2011 and in the 50k+ memo that Goodell sent out to every NFL owner the investigation revealed details. According to those reports Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate that was able to knock Vikings QB Brett Favre out of the game.

There were rumors about a New Orleans bounty system but Goodell and the NFL didn’t have substantial evidence to corroborate their allegations. That was over two seasons ago and that is when Goodell started an investigation to get to the bottom of this. Brett Favre was interviewed by Peter King of Sports Illustrated and the ol’ gunslinger took the controversy in stride, something Favre has done continuously through his career (pain-killers, retiring, un-retiring, changing teams, retiring, un-retiring, sexting, retiring) but told King that he’s “not pissed.” “Now, in that game [’09 NFC Championship] there were some plays that, I don’t want to say were odd, but I’d throw the ball and WHACK, on every play. Hand it off, WHACK. Over and over. Some were so blatant. . . got drilled right in the chin.” Favre said recalling the heartbreaking loss.

New Orleans had to defeat Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals before playing Brett and the Vikes on their way to the Super Bowl. It comes as no surprise that there was a bounty on Warner in that game and DE Bobby McCray literally knocked Warner into retirement. McCray must have gotten a little taste of some bounty money and his intensity increased dramatically. It was McCray who was flagged for attacking Favre’s knees in the NFC Championship and he was later fined $20,000 for his two hits on Favre. McCray was the player who tagged Brett after handing the ball of to WR Percy Harvin, causing a laceration to the silver fox’s chin. Brad Childress doesn’t get much praise around Vikings fans but he was on to something when he told reporters that he hates to see “late hits or attempts to hurt anybody. I don’t think there’s a place for that in the game.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that a Vikings player had a bounty on them, I was at a Packers/Vikings game in Lambeau during the 2007 season when Adrian Peterson was removed from the game. It was later reported that there had been a bounty on AP put on the defensive line by the secondary. The rumor is that the defensive backs would pay the defensive line if they could hold AP to less than 100 yards. Al Harris would make a hit that took Peterson out of the game but Packers loyalists believe that Harris didn’t purposely hurt him because then he would essentially be pulling 2 grand out of his own pockets. Packers fans aren’t always the smartest, but they’re sure as hell loyal. Luckily for Green Bay this bounty scandal took place before the nanny-state has been instituted by the NFL.

I am in no way surprised that bounty pools like these are prevalent in every locker room across the league but the fact that this has turned into such a story is a little bit more than pathetic. Goodell would love nothing more than to make the NFL even more popular than it already is and I guess some people still believe no press is bad press. As much as this story is keeping the NFL on the front pages during the middle of their off-season you know that the shit storm Goodell is brewing up will be epic. There has been a lot of comparison between what some media outlets are referring to ‘bountygate’ and the situation Bill Belichick and the Patriots were in a few years ago.

The fines dealt to Belichick and the Pats were hefty and many are expecting similar if not worse repercussions from this debacle. After DC Gregg Williams packed his bags to take a the same position with the St. Louis Rams seems to be a pretty suspect time period for this story to break. It doesn’t make much sense to think that Williams, who admits to his “pay for play” policy, and other NFL snitches would come out with this story in attempts to defame New Orleans. I find it highly unlikely that Goodell will take the brunt of the punishment to the doorsteps of the Superdome but would rather dig deep into Williams’ pockets.

Williams came out with an apology:

I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson [Saints Owner], and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the ‘pay for performance’ program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.

He claims that Head Coach Sean Payton and was not involved in the bounty program and in the investigation they found that he was not “a direct participant” but for a coach not to know what’s going on. Payton may not be directly involved but General Manager Mickey Loomis was informed by Saints owner Tom Benson to stop the program, which didn’t happen. Payton may claim his innocence but he had to have known what was going on and I unlike many other fans could care less.

These bounty programs usually paid small dividends of pooled monies whenever they did what they are already paid to do. The problem that Commissioner Roger Goodell had was that “the payments [for bounties] are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for performance, but also for injuring opposing players.” Goodell said that his job is to ensure “two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity” and that makes me want to laugh. What’s the difference between writing a clause in a player’s contract to give him a pay boost when he achieves a certain number of tackles for loss, sacks, playing time, etc.?

Many argue that by instituting these bounties that players are more likely to stay alert and involved on every play of the game. The biggest hits and issues have come off the field from two playoff hits against two old QB’s, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. If that Saints team wasn’t playing harder for a chance to play in the Super Bowl then they don’t deserve to be in the league. I don’t think that Bobby McCrary wanted to attack and sack Brett Favre anymore because he knew he was going to be pocketing another grand or two, especially since he was being paid $3.75 million for the 2009 season. Not to mention if he and his team got to the Super Bowl and won, as they did, then each player would receive an additional $85k+ for being victorious.

Bounty programs are prevalent all over this league and not just where Gregg Williams has coached, although allegations have spurred in both Washington and Buffalo during his tenure, but rather everywhere. People may want to lie and pretend that they actually care about the physical condition of these players but the fans just want to see the game played on the field. Some think that the repercussions should be worse for this offense than Spygate but I completely disagree. If you want to protect the integrity of the game you must make sure that Coaches and personnel don’t have the other team’s playbook in their hand. It doesn’t matter what type of bounty has been instituted because these men are supposed to try and kill each other on the field and that will never change.

The fans aren’t worried about what these modern day gladiators are capable of when they walk off the field. Roger Goodell on the other hand is handling this like a business, covering as many angles as possible to make sure the league isn’t liable under future lawsuits. Goodell has to know this is happening and he shouldn’t care much either, although publicly he is going to act as though this is an abomination to the NFL and they must be punished. Let’s see how big Goodell’s dick is this time, I mean punishment, no that sounds wrong I’m going with fine. Let’s see how big Goodell’s fine will be this time.

  1. Charles Grassl says:

    I disagree with the “nanney-state” concerns. Pro football is deviating from the original “run-pass-kick” of the game. Big hits make the highlight reels, but caught passes, big runs and long kicks also make the highlight reels and are even more enjoyable to watch. The game can be played without “bit hits” and it would still be fun to watch.

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