On Friday, the NFL announced that ongoing investigations have uncovered that the New Orleans Saints had a “bounty program” for their defense throughout the 2009-2011 seasons. It was reported that defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, set up money pools for games where players and other team personnel would combine their money and payouts would be given to players for big defensive plays including injuring the other team.
According to the investigations, players were paid $1,000 for hitting a player hard enough that he needed to be carted off, and $1,500 for knocking a player out of the game. These concerns arose during the Saints 2009 Super Bowl season, when there were numerous noticeable late and malicious hits on quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre.
This is the biggest controversy Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to rule on since the infamous “Spy Gate” incident. In 2007, the New England Patriots were found guilty of filming opponents practices prior to the game on Sunday. The punishment given out by the league then was a $750,000 fine and loss of their first round draft pick. Many officials think the punishment this time will be much more severe and that this is Roger Goodell’s opportunity to really take a firm stance. Because the Saints traded this year’s first round pick last year when moving up in the draft to select running back Mark Ingram, many speculate that the fine could be upwards of $1,000,000 and loss of this year’s second round pick and next year’s first.
Since the information leaked, there has been great discussion between fans, analysts, and players alike. Of course legally, setting up a “bounty pool” breaks the NFL’s rule of no “non-contract bonuses,” but many arguments have arisen as to whether such motivation of players is acceptable and just how common this may be around the league. Several different sides have been taken by players who have made their voices heard through social media in the past days.
@shawnemerriman: Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever. A “Bounty” left me with a torn PCL and LCL in my knee …
— Bills LB Shawne Merriman
@ChrisWarcraft: I mean seriously, think about it. You’re talking about paying someone to INTENTIONALLY injure someone else. They put people in JAIL for that
— Vikings P Chris Kluwe
@damienwoody: This ‘bounty’ program happens all around the league…not surprising
— Ex-Pats OL Damien Woody
@ShaunPhillips95: I think people forget that football is a contact sport. If you don’t wanna get hurt don’t play. I was always told keep your head on a swivel
— Chargers LB Shaun Phillips
@ChrisHarrisNFL: Football is a violent game n just because someone is hit very hard doesn’t mean it’s malicious
— Lions S Chris Harris
As if the NFL hasn’t had enough issues lately with violent hitting and the malicious intent of players on the field, they now have to take on this case that is quite ugly for the league as whole. Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Union have a real opportunity to make an impactful ruling on the Saints, a ruling that will be controversial regardless of the seriousness of the punishment that is dealt.