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National media sounds off on Saints’ bounty system

03.05.12 at 3:35 pm ET
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Never without controversy lately regarding issues of rough play and player safety, the NFL has another scandal on its hands as a league investigation found that the Saints were guilty of a wide-reaching system of payments to defensive players from former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for knocking out star offensive players on opposing teams.

The system of bounties reportedly involved between 22 and 27 players and spanned from 2009 to 2011. With the information now at the heart of discussion surrounding the NFL, many have begun to opine on what should happen to the Saints and how player-conscious NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will punish Williams and the Saints franchise for their transgressions.

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Don Banks wrote that because of this bounty system, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton face the most trouble of anyone in this saga.

Wrote Banks: This one stinks, NFL fans, and the stench goes top to bottom in the Saints organization. New Orleans can’t realistically make everyone pay with their jobs. There will be league fines and likely suspensions. But for Loomis and Payton, the accountability should be at a level commensurate with their responsibility. They were in charge of this show, and they know what comes with being the men at the top.

You get the credit and the blame. And this time, there’s nothing but blame to go around.

While Banks wrote that Loomis and Payton will undoubtedly be in trouble and could face the threat of losing their jobs, ESPN NFL writer Ashley Fox takes it a step further — she feels that the two men should be fired for their involvement and lack of action in helping prevent Williams’ payment system.

Wrote Fox: According to the NFL’s report, when [Saints owner Tom] Benson directed Loomis earlier this season to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately, Loomis did not follow Benson’s directions. “Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010,” the report continued, “he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.”

If the NFL’s report is true, Loomis defied a direct order from his owner. That is grounds for dismissal. And Payton was no better.

For others, though, the issue of the Saints’ bounty system extends far beyond a single team. Greg Couch of Fox Sports believes that those behind the bounty system in New Orleans should undoubtedly be punished, but that the culture of the NFL is also to blame in all of this.

Wrote Couch: Bounties aren’€™t new in the NFL. What’€™s new is medical fears about the game. What’€™s new is Dave Duerson committing suicide because he was forgetting phone numbers and addresses and addition and subtraction. He couldn’€™t face the future. What’€™s new is the knowledge about the connection between football and concussions and former players’€™ brains turning to mush.

So why does anyone do this? It’€™s the NFL, that’€™s why. It’€™s the culture not only of the league, but also of the sport that parents across the country are dying to put their kids into. Think again, parents. Football glory is a big lie.

Over the greater part of the past few seasons, as the NFL has stepped up its commitment to fining players for illegal hits, players have criticized Goodell and the league as a whole for diluting the importance of physical play in a physical game. With the discovery of this bounty system, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports feels that the players’ backlash against player safety initiatives took a big hit.

Wrote Freeman: This isn’t damning for all players but it’s damning enough and hurts the player narrative that Goodell and the NFL don’t care about the great toll this sport puts on their bodies and minds.

This shows the opposite, that players and even coaches sometimes need to be protected from themselves. The next time a player complains that football is too soft or there are now too many rules instituted by Goodell protecting players, remember this bounty situation, and tell that player or coach to shut the hell up.

Current and former NFL players, as well as other prominent current or former athletes, have sounded off on this issue, too. Former NBA star and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley, appearing on “The Dan Patrick Show,” condemned those who told the league about the system.

‘€œYou have to be a punk to snitch that out,’€ Barkley said.

Twitter, never at a loss of interesting material from prominent figures, also had some interesting takes from many around and inside the NFL. Former Patriots and Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody tweeted: This ‘bounty’ program happens all around the league…not surprising. Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman expressed a similar sentiment when he tweeted: Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever. Cardinals kicker Jay Feely showed the same sense of disgust and disillusionment that many had with the news when he tweeted: No place in NFL for bounties. Physical play is an attribute but malicious intent should be removed.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who it was reported offered $10,000 in cash to any player that knocked then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game, was the target of intense scrutiny on Twitter when the news broke. In response, Vilma tweeted: Truly enjoyed those ridiculous tweets today they were pretty Amusing. Loved da support from my tru fans even more tho, Who Dat and go canes!

Like many of his other colleagues, Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King believes that the Saints could be facing very serious consequences for their misdeeds, and that Goodell could use this news as a chance to make an example of them.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports also thinks that Goodell will come down hard on New Orleans and that this could be an example of swift justice from the commissioner’s office.

Looking at the league as a whole, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports writes that this bounty system scandal hurts the NFL’s public perception and image.

Moving away from the field of play, Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann believes that the Saints’ “pay for injury” model could lead to battery and conspiracy charges for a variety of people, most notably Williams.

Building on that, CBS Sports’ Greg Doyel believes that Williams, now the Rams’ defensive coordinator, should be more worried about possible jail time than his NFL future in wake of this controversy.

Read More: Brett Favre, Charles Barkley, Damien Woody, Dave Duerson
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