The New Orleans Saints have been making headlines all week; first for the Drew Brees contract negotiations, and now for former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ bounty program that rewarded players for taking out players on the opposing team.
Only one of those stories can be classified as news, the other can be relegated to the trash. The bounty program run by Williams is not new. It is not unusual.Despite being a tad bit inhumane, it is part of the game.
Williams and the Saints have fallen under scrutiny because of this bounty program that rewarded players for season-ending injuries, knocking them out for a game, or even a couple of plays. However, I thought the general concept of playing defense was to be hard, aggressive and downright brutal.
Alas, that used to be the National Football League. Now it is riddled with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for breathing on a quarterback or “defenseless” wide receiver. Pigs will fly before James Harrison or DeMarcus Ware get away with a decleating hit without serious monetary fines and possible suspensions.
Since football has changed dramatically under the reign of Roger Goddell, the “bounty program” is regarded as scandalous and immoral. Injuring players is now considered a taboo by the big brass in the corporate headquarters of the NFL. While the bosses sip on their chardonnay and count how many gold watches they currently own, NFL players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are tiptoeing around to avoid fines and suspensions. Players have played soft.
New Orleans was doing the NFL a service by running a bounty program. All teams do it. Injuries may not be rewarded by cash, but teams across the league focus on the injury report every week. Players see who is banged up on the report and they target them.
The Saints fall into even more scrutiny because their bounty program was run during their Super Bowl championship year; the same year that Brees took down Brett Favre in an epic showdown. Favre, who ESPN has a love affair with, was taken down hard by the Saints defense multiple times throughout the game because of the “bounty” that linebacker Jonathan Vilma placed before the game.
If defenses are going to be penalized for doing what it was designed to do, then the NFL should consider ridding defenses all together. In an attempt to make the game safer, the NFL has become nothing but a league that punishes hard hits and aggression and rewards high scoring, pre-madonna quarterbacks and wide receivers who are too afraid to catch passes in the middle of the field.