Just Some Thoughts

Share Button

There’s no doubt about the culpability of Sean Payton and Greg Williams in handing out cash bounty rewards. It’s bad stuff folks, no ifs, ands, or buts. But certainly the hype machine that is all over the NFL breaking the latest news of the latest bounty offered by then Saints DC Gregg Williams with the acknowledgement of Payton is churning into over kill though. This guy is not a mass murderer in a headset.

This game has always been discussed, coached, critiqued and immersed in the most colorful verbage and metaphors available to the human race since somebody got bored playing soccer and decided to run with a pig’s bladder. Liking the game to wars, gang fights and mercenary actions were the norm, not the exception. Silly, yes but never was there an undergirding of real percieved threat over and above the normal threat that constitutes spending an afternoon whacking somebody during the course of an NFL game. As a matter of fact, i found William’s words to be rather bland, though most observers find the cryptic references to testing out body parts as proof that Williams is just a step below a serial killer.

But if you think Williams is the only NFL coach to highlight injured areas of an opponents body, you are sadly mistaken. Ask some players about their personal knowledge of the health of the opponent.

Remember that i come from a different era.

I did find it curious that suddenly on the eve of Payton’s gang appealing their suspension’s that film footage surfaced though. Now that we have a piece of a documentary film featuring Williams offering bounties the night before the Saints lost to the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs as evidence, i’d say that was hard to argue that appeal.

Can’t help myself here, but the first thing that popped into my gourd was the most basic question that’s probably bouncing around in the noggins of Steelers Nation. Doesn’t anyone wonder why we are hearing about this film now and seeing clips of it but we never got any real meat from Belichick’s home sideline movies? Why do Sean Payton and Williams find themselves suspended and Billy-boy didn’t miss a day?

Call me crazy and bitter, but i’m just asking.

I can only assume that it has to do with the NFL’s agenda to protect themselves from the looming lawsuits on the horizon over the head trauma issue. I understand Goodell’s onward march to making the game safer, yet putting a kill shot on one organization/individual(s) without similar retribution on another makes me uncomfortable. Cheating’s cheating. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

You can make a case for promoting injury through greater violence is higher up Goodell’s totem pole, but think for a moment. If you as a DB or LB’er have a “premonition” that a WR is running a delayed drag across the middle on 3rd and 6 due to a little insider trading, wouldn’t you as one of the enlightened defensive players be licking your chops to light up such a player? The opportunity for injury through greater violence is still there.

Look, i’m not for bounties. Going out of your way to hurt another player is over the line, though that line has been crossed many, many times by many, many players. Offering a reward to hurt another player is with out a doubt way over the line. Yet that supposed line is as thin as the stripes on Don Knott’s pajamas (C’mon, who doesn’t like Barney Fife?) when you hear player after player tell you that they live for the big hit, that they try to hit a player as hard as they can. Shoot, that’s what attracted most of us to this game in the first place.

And if your goal is to hit another player as hard as you can (within the boundaries of the rules), cash reward or no cash reward, aren’t you still culpable if that player is injured?

So what does this leave us with? Intent is the only thing i can think of.

This, then begs the next question. When does this game de-evolve into the vision of the goofy retired ref on NFL broadcasts who says that he can “judge intent” with his super slo-mo? The next step is to hire Tom Cruise and his 3 pre-cogs from “Minority Report” to stamp out pre-intent criminal acts from the field of play.

It’s not that i’m trivializing what Payton and Williams have done. Bounties have hit close to home here. My own younger brother Ron, a 10-year NFL veteran once found himself on the bad end of a bounty years ago. Only a heads up by an opposing player before the game gave him fore-warning. And to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed.

But i dislike the hysterical response from people who have never lived nor understood the culture inside a locker room. I’m feeling the Ndamukong Suh thing here all over again. Bounties have been around the NFL for a very long time. And before there were bounties, there were players who didn’t need a bounty to take it upon themselves to put another player on the bench and out of action. Conrad Dobler made a career out of it. Such was life in the dark ages of the NFL.

No, the new era of NFL life is in full swing. The NFL is divesting itself of the “good old days” (and i say that with a touch of sarcasm) of lawlessness and frontier justice. With the ever growing popularity of the game and the accompanying enormous sums of money that flow through the NFL, it can no longer languish in medieval times. They can’t afford the o’l leech theory to heal a wound, cure a disease or practice alchemy.

But just as in the dark ages of europe, what, with all the knights in shining armor on great steeds, jousting in tournaments for honor and slaying of dragons while rescuing damsels in distress, there was a code of conduct. There was an understanding amongst the players that translated into actions on the field that by today’s standards would be judged ruthless and the players involved would be excoriated.

But dang it all people, i’d be lying if i told you it wasn’t fun.

But if you’re going to go down this road of transformation and enlightenment and shake off the last vestiges of the dark ages of the NFL, then the newer version needs to shed the last of it’s medieval practices. Stop burning witches at the stake.

Banning Williams for life is ridiculous. Suspending Payton for an entire year i think is too much, though the lying part of the reports i’ve heard so far troubles me nearly as much as the actual bounties.

Those that aren’t part of the minority of lunatic fringe in the NFL know the difference between trying to hit somebody as hard as they can WITHIN the boundaries of the game is still a part of the game and that doing so does not stipulate intent of injury on behalf of the smacker.

But if the NFL starts taking away the ability to un-load on a guy, starts tinkering with the physicality of the game and slowing it down to a snails pace as they work out the intent of a particular hit, the NFL’s popularity will for sure take a hit.

Think Chuck Bednarik on Frank Gifford.

There’s a reason people are drawn to this game. There’s a reason not many can play it at it’s highest level. it’s like human NASCAR on a straight line. If anybody could do it, they would. And there’d be a whole lot less people watching it. And paying the big ticket.