It's been a couple weeks since we learned about certain NFL coaches offering "bounties" to players who hit opposing players so hard, they need to be carried off the field. So much has been going on in politics, current events and NCAA basketball, I've not had the inclination to comment — until now.
As you may have heard, New Orleans Saints Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for an entire season, and his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, both for offering players $1,000 for hitting opponents hard enough to force them off the field and $1,500 for hits that sent opponents off on a cart.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season because he defied NFL orders to put a stop to the bounty system, and assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of the season. All of the suspensions are without pay.
Now here's where things get preposterous. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, "We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorites."
Umm, Roger, have you ever seen what goes on in the trenches between mammoth offensive and defensive linemen? Haven't you noticed all the clutching and grabbing by offensive linemen? If the refs wanted to, they could call holding on virtually every play. The "integrity of the game"??? WTF? This is a dirty, vicious, violent game. It ain't golf and it ain't curling. Don't insult our intelligence.
Not to be outdone, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft stated, "I'm very proud that the commissioner is putting the health and safety of players first. I don't want any person in this country, any mother in this country, worrying that her son can't play football for health and safety reasons." Excuse me? "Health and safety"? I'd say it's highly unsafe to be a quarterback at risk of getting slammed to the ground by a 300-pound lineman, and it's not healthy to sustain a concussion.
Granted, in recent years, the NFL has implemented numerous rule changes designed to protect quarterbacks and prevent head injuries caused by helmet-to-helmet hits and tackling that can cause serious injury such as the infamous "clothesline" and "horse collar" tackles. But the players just keep getting bigger, faster and stronger.
I've never been a fan of boxing because of its brutality. While I respect the skills of boxers, their rigorous exercise and training regimens and the difficulty of their sport, I simply do not enjoy watching a sport where the major objective is to knock out your opponent. I hate to hear of former boxers whose speech and personality have been impaired by multiple blows to the head, and I especially hate to hear of boxers dying in a match.
I love football because I enjoy the strategy, execution, variety of formations and play calling. The reverse, the draw play, screen passes, pitch-outs where the ball carrier suddenly stops and throws a pass, and the ever-present psychological games (e.g., get the defense expecting pass, pass, pass, then spring a run on 'em...) It's a darned entertaining game, but it is getting more dangerous as the players continue to grow larger, more powerful and faster.
I don't know what the answer is, but it is clear serious head injuries are becoming more and more of a problem. It is despicable that the New Orleans coaching staff was offering cash bounties for not just hitting opposing players hard, but for injuring them.
It is also surprising that players earning millions of dollars (or at the very least, several hundred thousand dollars a year), would be willing to seriously injure an opposing player, possibly ending his career, for a measly $1,000 or $1,500. Not a good commentary on the character of the players.