After news came out that the Saints were running a bounty-like program under head coach Sean Payton, General Manager Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, it was apparent that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would strike with great ferocity as other players’ careers were seriously put at risk.
But nobody expected this kind of punishment.
Payton has been suspended for one year for his involvement in the program, and more so along the lines of knowing about the situation but keeping quiet and approving of it. Loomis has been suspended half a season (eight games) and Williams has been suspended indefinitely. The Saints as an organization was also heavily reprimanded, being fined $500,000 and losing two second-round draft picks: one in 2012, one in 2013.
The punishment is among the heftiest ever seen in the NFL, and a lot of it has to do with the current time we live in and how athletes are being treated with more physical care. If this sort of situation occurred back when Dick Butkus was playing (and maybe it did for all we know), it probably wouldn’t have made nearly as many headlines because media attention wasn’t as plentiful and the NFL was glorified for being a very violent sport. The scientific knowledge of concussions and general damage to the body was not identified, either.
There is a difference between injuring a player and the intent to hurt another player, and that is exactly where the Saints crossed the line. Giving defensive players bonuses for bigger hits and trying to decapitate the opposing team’s players is what the league has been trying to get away from in lieu of the concussion issues becoming front and center for current and former players.
The NFL is already a league made of superior athletes, many who could literally kill others on a football field because of their size and strength. For a coach, for someone who is a grown man to tell his players to try to end someone’s career for an extra check after the game … it really makes sports seem like the end-all, be-all in our current culture.
I am all for athletes in all sports to play hard and aggressive, cheering big hits just as much as the next fan. Big hits are part of the game and these players surely understand what they sign up for, especially considering the amount of money they receive for making a big catch or laying out an unsuspecting receiver.
There is a line between volatile and barbaric, and the Saints jumped over that line with sheer enthusiasm and plain arrogance.
Sources: ESPN, Yahoo.Sports, The Washington Post, and the NFL.com.