New Orleans Saints and Bounties

CHRIS PUMMER: The NFL has dropped the hammer on the Saints. Coach Sean Payton is suspended for a year. GM Mickey Loomis is out for six games. Assistant coach Joe Vitt gets six games. Former defensive coordinator and current Rams DC Gregg Williams will be out indefinitely.

What gets me is that the suspensions aren’t really about the punishment fitting the crime, protecting players, or even making an example of the Saints to try to shift the culture away from its embrace of excess violence. It’s because the Saints didn’t keep things above the deck when the NFL started poking around. Sean Payton in particular is getting such a long suspension because he wasn’t up front with the league.

What’s really important to the NFL, in this order, are: 1) protecting the league’s image, 2) stuffing as much money as possible into ownership’s pockets and a distant 3) anything else, including player safety. Especially player safety. And that first thing is only first because it directly impacts the second.

KRYSTEN OLIPHANT: This is probably the best commentary I’ve heard on it yet. If player safety were the big issue here, then the Packers would’ve gotten some sort of punishment in 2007. But they “stopped.” (Seriously, how can you even prove that?) If it was player safety, Goodell wouldn’t be pushing 18-game seasons, more Thursday games and Monday games that shorten recovery time, and he wouldn’t be fighting the NFLPA for health benefits. It’s such a load of crap. Football is football. It’s violent. People get paid to run into other people.

Goodell hammered the Saints because they were hiding something from him and made him look stupid. And it’s about who the players are. What about Ray Lewis? Really? They STILL haven’t found that white suit. but he’s such a popular player and pretty much the only thing the Ravens had for a while, so it’s cool, he can still play.

Oh, and Ben Roethlisberger. Multiple rape accusations? Eh, no biggie, you’re a star quarterback. Have a great game! Bill Belicheck got caught cheating red-handed, and that so-called penalty doesn’t even rate in comparison to what was just handed down to the Saints. It’s all about who the player/coach/team is.

And, quite honestly, I think a lot of it is BECAUSE he doesn’t want a host team playing in the Super Bowl. I mean, that would severely cut down the profits of the game if the only people who cared about it were already in the city, right?

My whole thing is this: The bounties were wrong. Very wrong. If anyone was trying to intentionally injure any other player, especially trying to go harm their careers, that’s unacceptable (although every one of the Saints’ players still deny that anyone was trying to intentionally end a career.) But the issue with players throwing money at each other for performance incentives doesn’t strike me as wrong. So what if Tracy Porter wants to give $50 to the first player to pick off a pass for a TD? That’s their JOB. It’s their own money?

If, as a salesperson, I land a huge account worth a million dollars, I wouldn’t think twice about my boss giving me a bonus or a commission or hell, just taking me out to lunch. So why is that such a no-no in the NFL, as long as it doesn’t come from the team, which I understand would be against the player’s contract.

Anyway, I hope the appeal brings some sort of reduction of the punishment, otherwise we’re setting a very sad precedent in letting this one egotistical maniac control the entire league.

CHRIS PUMMER: Well, it wasn’t all as innocent at “50 bucks for a pick.” They were paying out a lot more for much more serious stuff.

That kind of stuff isn’t necessary. Even in a violent sport like football. Especially in a violent sport like football, it should be the prerogative of players, coaches, management and ownership to police excess violence.

How they’re policing it is where I have a problem. Given the culture of the league, and among fans, coming down on the Saints like this seems completely arbitrary unless you believe what they were doing was far and away the worst case of this — which I don’t — or that it’s about avoiding a public relations hit with several court cases looming regarding the NFL’s responsibility for the former players with brains softened up from years of big hits.

If this were a first step toward stiffening up rules regarding player safety, fine. If the league were going to take accountability for some of the long-term health problems players suffer because of this culture, great. It’s about time.

I just seriously doubt these punishments are anything other than an image-related ploy. And until I see something more tangible put forward by the NFL without being compelled by litigation, I’ll continue to doubt the motive.

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