19 June 2012

A New Era of NFL Football: Bounties Galore

The NFL claims bounties were put on NFL QBs Warner and Favre
               

One of the greatest RBs to ever play the game,
Barry Sanders often frustrated opposing players
with his uncanny running abilities

I remember growing up watching NFL games on Sunday with my older brother.  He has been a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan for as long as I can remember.  I remember one day he was mad when his favorite player got hurt;  Rod Woodson was attempting to tackling Barry Sanders in the open field and ended up breaking his ankle due to all the turning, twisting, and changing of directions.  Barry Sanders was a remarkable running back, to say the least.  He could single handedly change the outcome of a football game, make grown men look like boys, and leave you asking the only question imaginable, “How did he do that?”  Never once did I ever hear my brother say he wished one of the Steelers would take a cheap shop on Barry, attempt to hurt him, or anything else that could have been perceived as such.  To think such a comment was unheard of, it was unsportsmanlike, it was just plain wrong.

                2012 has marked a dark day in the NFL, a time that should have never happened, an event that should have been stopped.  The New Orleans Saints were discovered to have used what’s been called “Bountygate” during a 3 year run of NFL play.  Bountygate was a program put in place by coaches and players to reward New Orleans Saints defensive players who knowingly, and willfully, enacted pain and punishment on opposing offensive players.  The NFL uncovered what it called “substantial evidence” that linked coaches and key players from the Saints leading this Bountygate effort, and certain players who were said to be critical players in the operation.  In my opinion, violence is a part of the NFL, just like it is in boxing, UFC, and the NHL.  Granted, no one in the NFL or NHL is going to stop the game, put on gloves, and go to blows for a few rounds, but the violence is there nonetheless.  Players expose their bodies to plays, absorbing hits of great force, and continuing to perform every play.  They do so because they have an understanding of sportsmanship, integrity, and a shared concern over player safety.  The New Orleans Saints have raised questions as to whether or not they are concerned with any player not on their own team.


NFL great Junior Seau is the most
recent victim of NFL trauma that
followed after the playing field
days were over.

                It’s recently been thought that the so-called violence in the NFL has lead to health-problems of former NFL players, players who played the game with a certain style, and then well after their playing days were over, blamed the NFL for their health issues.  In a way, I don’t blame the NFL anymore than I blame the player, but at the same time I blame both the player and the NFL.  Do I think the NFL should be held solely responsible for the player’s health problems later in life?  No.  Do I think the NFL helped contribute to the problem?  Yes- to a degree.  That’s a different topic all together though, because the rules of the NFL have changed over time, and for the most part, the safety rules are in place to help protect the players, not limit what they can do. 

                The whole Bountygate scandal has left a black eye on the New Orleans Saints and it’s players involved.  Do I think they are completely innocent?  No.  Do I think they are solely to blame?  No as well.  What I do think is this- I think the New Orleans Saints instituted a pay for play system in which the defensive players were given rewards for taking out “targets” in the NFL.  I don’t think there was a player on the defense who stood up once and said “This is wrong, we shouldn’t be doing this.”  Just like I don’t think there was a coach who stood up and said “Guys, think about this, it’s not right for us to do this.”  I think both the coaches and the players knew it was wrong, knew they shouldn’t be doing it, and knew that if they were caught they would have to face the music for their actions. 

                Whether or not Jonathan Vilma was the leader of the players in this scandal or not, is really irrelevant to me, as a fan.  What I do think is that as a leader of the defense it is his job to stop the offense on the field, and it was his job to stop the Bountygate process, or report it to the NFL, neither of which he did.  His negligence in the matter makes him responsible, whether he is willing to admit it or not.  Look at Penn State’s football team and the fallout from the Sandusky allegations.  Joe Paterno, the legendary coach, was terminated as the head football coach at Penn State because they said he failed to do enough about a problem, a problem he did in fact report.  (Granted, the situations are different, but the principal behind each is the same- the person, who should have done more, did not).


Saints players were on video claiming to want their
"money" for knocking out Favre

                What I do think is that punishment is warranted if in fact there were such actions taking place.  The players are quick to bash the NFL for not taking enough care of them, for allowing them to have health problems later in life, but when information like this comes to light, they jump up and scream the NFL is wrong in their actions.  I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways, either you play by the rules (that you have forced on yourselves), or you find a new line of employment.  The New Orleans Saints, Jonathan Vilma, Sean Payton, and the coaching staff are all responsible for what happened.  Through all of this there has not been one mention of anyone ever raising concern of the actions, the only concern raised, from what I’ve seen on TV and in the news, has been players asking for their cut of money for injuring players, such as Brett Favre.

                In addition to all the uproar from players who have screamed foul for the NFL and the NFL not taking enough care of players on the field, is the current NFL players’ contracts.  If a player has a moral clause in their contract, does conduct such as Bountygate violate such a clause?  What would constitute a violation?  Just being involved?  Leading the efforts of Bountygate?  Having knowledge and not reporting it?  In my opinion, just having firsthand knowledge and not reporting it is a violation of the morals clause.  If it is illegal for a person to put a bounty on another person, then it’s illegal in the NFL just the same.  A bounty program by nature is 100% illegal in this country, and anyone involved in such actions should be treated as such, and their employment should be questioned, if not terminated.  Anyone found to have firsthand knowledge should be removed, whether or not they participated, because knowing and not reporting makes them just as guilty as the person delivering the action.

Again, I have no problems with the NFL, the violence in the NFL, or the way the NFL is played today.  If players want to be safer, then I’m all for it, but in the process of forcing the NFL to rewrite rules and change the way guys like James Harrison play, then the players have to help their own image.  If you’re going to say you’re not actively involved in a Bountygate scandal (Vilma), then you need to be the whistle blower who’s stopping it, otherwise, you’re involved, and just as responsible.  PERIOD.


Jonathan Vilma says he's innocent even
though he did nothing to stop the
"Bountygate" practices on the field

2 comments:

  1. All excellent points. Do I think they should have had a pay for play scheme? No. Do I think every team has a similar mentality from Junior High ball to the Pros? Yes. From the youngest of ages you get stickers on your helmet or acknowledged in team meetings or make highlight reels or interviewed by sportscenter for big hits and ferocious defense. Monetary compensation aside it supports a mentality that leveling opponents is a good thing and should be repeated. I emphasize LEGAL, mind blowing, bone crushing hits. I was always taught that if you can lay someone out with a legal hit you should do it and do it often. I will let readers decide on what "lay out" means. That should be more fun. My friends who played D1 ball in the big boy conferences said the mentality is just the same. No money changes hands but the reward is there just the same.

    Now having set the stage, I love football. I love big hits. Maybe I am violent. Do i want to see a player permanently damaged? Never. Do I want to see him get his bell rung? You bet! The pay for play schemes are wrong but at the same time the NFL and players cannot pretend that the same thing doesn't go on in principle all over the place. If money is the only difference is it any less wrong? How do you control such a thing without weakening the game with more rules? It is a tough question with no clear answer.

    I hate to see older players dang near crippled. Broke my heart to meet Ditka and watch him slowly limp away. But this is their game and they knowingly accept the way a game is played. The only way it will change is if the players want it to change. I just hope it doesnt turn into flag football. I love the big hits and big plays. I guess I am probably part of the blood thirsty fanbase they talk about. Oh well, guess I will go watch some UFC. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. All excellent points. Do I think they should have had a pay for play scheme? No. Do I think every team has a similar mentality from Junior High ball to the Pros? Yes. From the youngest of ages you get stickers on your helmet or acknowledged in team meetings or make highlight reels or interviewed by sportscenter for big hits and ferocious defense. Monetary compensation aside it supports a mentality that leveling opponents is a good thing and should be repeated. I emphasize LEGAL, mind blowing, bone crushing hits. I was always taught that if you can lay someone out with a legal hit you should do it and do it often. I will let readers decide on what "lay out" means. That should be more fun. My friends who played D1 ball in the big boy conferences said the mentality is just the same. No money changes hands but the reward is there just the same.

    Now having set the stage, I love football. I love big hits. Maybe I am violent. Do i want to see a player permanently damaged? Never. Do I want to see him get his bell rung? You bet! The pay for play schemes are wrong but at the same time the NFL and players cannot pretend that the same thing doesn't go on in principle all over the place. If money is the only difference is it any less wrong? How do you control such a thing without weakening the game with more rules? It is a tough question with no clear answer.

    I hate to see older players dang near crippled. Broke my heart to meet Ditka and watch him slowly limp away. But this is their game and they knowingly accept the way a game is played. The only way it will change is if the players want it to change. I just hope it doesnt turn into flag football. I love the big hits and big plays. I guess I am probably part of the blood thirsty fanbase they talk about. Oh well, guess I will go watch some UFC. ;)

    ReplyDelete