So, for those who have not heard of the New Orleans Saints “bounty” controversy of late, let me explain it to you.
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams decided each week as he prepared for his next opponent that he would reward players with a bonus for whomever seriously injured the specified player in the upcoming game.
Let me repeat that: whoever can hurt a player bad enough that they are carted off in a stretcher or are knocked unconscious receives a bonus of at least $1,000.
The NFL’s investigation into this matter revealed that a “knockout” was rewarded with a $1,500 bonus and a “cart-off” was worth $1,000.
Now, as an Atlanta Falcons fan, this comes as no surprise to me, because I have known of the trashy ways in which the New Orleans Saints play for many years (with no disrespect to Drew Brees).
But even I would never expect a professional organization to go to this level.
The NFL has never seen anything like this before, and the football world has been stunned with the severity of the investigator’s findings.
Apparently everyone within the Saints organization knew about the bounty—from the punter to the general manager.
Now, I am not saying that this does not happen at many levels of football. I have heard of many instances in which football players—from former NFL players to my high school teammates— would throw some money into a pot to see who could take out the other team’s best player.
It was always behind the coach’s back, and it would never be more than maybe twenty dollars apiece.
But this is on another level.
With your coach putting $1,000 on line as motivation to intentionally harm a fellow football player, the integrity of the game of football is thrown out the window, replaced by dollar signs. At least, I know it would for me, if I were a middle linebacker.
Look, we all know how physical the game of football is. There is no other game in the world that is as grueling on your body as football is day-in and day-out, especially throughout a season that can last up to 20 games, counting the preseason.
As a tight end, I know that being an offensive player in football is dangerous enough with defensive players already trying to take your head off every chance they get.
But to place bounties on people’s heads—people who have no idea that they may be targeted—is unquestionably despicable.
I know that the Saints will face severe consequences: head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will probably all be suspended, maybe even fired, and the Saints might lose some draft picks in the upcoming draft in April.
I believe that the Saints deserve every consequence that they have coming for them; what they did was both illegal and sets a bad example.
But, my biggest problem, even though my hate for the Saints will always be immense, is that at the end of the day we football players all understand and respect each other for the sport in which we compete. Please do not threaten the integrity of that bond and football as a whole just for a thousand-dollar bonus. NFL players already make enough money anyway.