Bounty system worse than 'spygate' for NFL
Where's your outrage football fans? Where is the killer mentality that was apparent during the overreaction that is now known as "spygate," in which seemingly every football fan outside of New England was calling for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's head? Much of the New Orleans Saints organization, including their players, took part in a secretive operation that bribed players to knock out members of the opposing team – yet ESPN still can't stray from "Linsanity", Lebron James and Tim Tebow. The answers lie within winning.
When the Patriots organization was under fire for stretching a league rule regarding videotaping restrictions, they had attended five Super Bowls in 19 years – three coming in the six years prior. The season following "spygate," the Patriots finished the regular season undefeated before losing in the Super Bowl. This year, the Patriots also lost the Super Bowl. An organization that, since the 1985 season, has appeared in the Super Bowl seven times, clearly and understandably has a bulls eye on its back.
With that being said, one must not mistake the negative attention, or lack thereof, of the current Saints scandal, to the magnitude of the offense. Bribing players, who are already millionaires, with thousands of dollars to intentionally harm an opposing player is not only morally irresponsible, but is damaging to the integrity of the sport in its entirety. The attention the issue has gotten is far less than warranted – perhaps due to the fact that the Saints have only appeared in one Super Bowl since, well, the Super Bowl was created.
Let me explain the specifics of the scandal – from the 2009 through 2011 football seasons, former Saints and current St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allegedly instituted a bounty system. This paid Saints defensive players up to $1,500 for damaging hits, with more money being earned from knocking an opposing player out of a game.
The NFL has stated that between 22 and 27 Saints players at the time were involved with the bounty, something that head coach Sean Payton was aware of. Occasionally, up to $10,000 was put as a reward for taking specific players, such as former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, out of a game. In that specific game, Favre was battered unconscionably and was eventually helped off the field.
In the blogging website known as The Guardian, Patrick Hruby expresses his opposing view on the scandal by saying, "…league commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to slap the Saints with a more severe punishment than the fines and forfeited draft picks levied upon the New England Patriots for videotaping their opponents' in the 2007 "spygate" scandal. In other words: in professional football, it's bad to cheat. But it's far worse to accept bribes for doing your job. Particularly for doing it well."
He is wrong in that football players don't play in games to hurt other players. Sure, defense is the more viscous side of the ball – where players strive on hitting hard – but the mindset of a cornerback hitting a receiver hard the second he attempts to make a reception is not to hurt the player, but rather to cause an incompletion.
The mindset of a defensive end rushing off the corner to sack a quarterback is not to knock him out of the game or give him a concussion, but rather to stop a play from happening or cause a fumble. And just as a side note, what the Patriots did in 2007 was completely legal – just not in the location they did it. Videotaping signals from the opposing sideline is allowed in specific booths, but not on the sideline, as the Patriots did, making the term "cheat" a stretch, no?
The NFL in the past decade has made being a defensive player incredibly difficult. Many rules were put in place to prevent harmful hits, particularly on defenseless players and quarterbacks, with the intention of preventing serious injury on millionaire, money-making players.
These rules, while frustrating for some, signify a direction in which the NFL hopes to travel to ensure a more balanced, safe game – while still carrying the intensity that football fans have learned to love. The Saints, by rewarding its players for going in the opposite direction, will be extremely punished – and deservedly so.
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