It’s been well documented in the NFL since 2006 that if you do something stupid, no matter the severity, you’re going to be punished for it. This Commish turned vigilante appears to have watched one too many Batman movies over the years. His punishments are questioningly unfit for the crime on more than one occasion. The inconsistencies from one team to the next and one player to another are frustrating to any fan of the NFL. The story of Bountygate and the punishments that followed may have actually bucked that trend.
Here’s a brief scenario: The Saints illegally conducted a program that placed bounties on certain players from other teams that encouraged injuring the players contained on that list. The Saints obstructed the original investigation by the NFL a few years ago. A stool pigeon tipped the NFL this season that the Saints continued the practice of the bounty program. It was found that former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, ran the program and Sean Payton knew about the program, as did Mickey Loomis. Those guys received justly punishments for their involvement (along with Joe Vitt). The Commish was not done there, and today doled out four huge punishments to the players involved.
LB Jonathan Vilma, DT Anthony Hargrove , DT Will Smith, and LB Scott Fujita were all suspended today by Commish Goodell. Those punishments ranged from one year to three games. And, it didn’t take long for the public, players and media to start weighing in via Twitter. You would think that just about everybody would be unanimous with this decision – regardless of the severity of the punishments. These players participated in an illegal program – a program that jeopardized player safety and careers – and needed to pay a price for such actions.
Surprisingly (but not really surprisingly when you see who it is) some players spoke out against the punishments.
Ridiculous, and nobody really sees why the punishments have been so severe over the past 3 4years! Lawsuits and 18 games??? - James Harrison via Twitter
Vilma suspended a whole yr FOR PLAYING FOOTBALL???? cmon man!!!!! – LaMarr Woodley via Twitter
Wonder why the team got the least penalties in Bounty Gate! Think about who elects & reworded the commish, it’s the owners of the trams! – Ryan Clark via Twitter
Where to begin? Well let’s just start with James. Harrison goes a bit conspiracy on us with this Tweet and thinks there’s a bigger reason (and an eeeeeeevil one at that) why the NFL and the Commish have been handing out severe punishments for the past 3-4 seasons. I’ll agree that many are strange in their severity. I’ll even put it out there that the NFL is very contradictory as it acts as an advocate for player safety yet promotes the most violent sport in the world (yes even more violent than that dad taking a whack in the nuts by standing too close to his son whose taking a swing at the tee-ball stand). I know what James is getting at – it’s all about the lawsuits. They are here and more are coming. The NFL is trying its damndest to put up a glass shield by addressing player safety now in hopes it will deflect over 30+ years of neglect. More are coming, and Junior Seau today just put the spotlight back on the NFL.
If LaMarr Woodley thinks that guys like Vilma were ‘just playing football’ perhaps he’s the one that needs his head examined for taking too many hits. A bounty program is not part of football. In fact, my drop kicking friend, it’s clearly written in your hard fought for through a strike CBA that any kind of action like this is illegal. How would you feel if there was a bounty on Ben by let’s say Suggs, Lewis, and Ngata? Were they just playing football? Was that just part of the rivalry between the two teams?
Ryan Clark must not read up on his ‘NFL Owners Weekly’ magazine week to week. Otherwise he would have realized that there were people other than players who were suspended for this. What? No love for coach Sean Peyton or General Manager Mickey Loomis or coach Gregg Williams? And let’s look at their suspensions: Williams is suspended indefinitely. In fact he will probably never return to the NFL, ever. The NFL’s newest Pete Rose. Peyton is suspended for one season. Loomis is suspended for eight games. Pretty much tit for tat if you ask me when compared to the players’ suspensions. In fact, the players got off easy – especially Vilma. It was found that Vilma helped start the program with Williams AND put down $10,000 for a hit on Kurt Warner. A direct accomplice AND enabler. Yet Vilma gets to stay and play football in 2013.
These ill advised statements from those Steelers are laced with stupidity and quite frankly make the team look bad. Which brings me to the title of my article – Tow The Line. The players wonder why fans can quickly get ticked off at them and care less when the players gripe and grumble over contract disputes, strikes, and punishments. For me, it’s because of bull crap like this. There’s no need to tow the line with your union brothers on this issue. There’s no need to stand up, as players in a union, against something that belittles your sport. Sometimes I applaud the Steelers for stepping up and speaking out against decisions within the league – when they actually make sense. But, these Twitter statements from three beloved Steelers are irresponsible and just plain dumb. You really think these punishments were unfair?
Do you not care how this type of program invalidates any sense of competitive balance within the league? There’s a great point made by Jeff Howe today from the NESN:
For instance, imagine if Carson Palmer’s devastating knee injury in the 2005 playoffs occurred while there was a bounty program in place. The league would have suffered a permanent stain due to a fan base’s vitriol, the high probability of lawsuits and forthcoming questions of competitive balance. Plus, that injury derailed Palmer’s career for years.
Or any other big name for that matter — a Tom Brady, a Peyton Manning, a Calvin Johnson, whoever. Injuries happen due to dirty plays, clean tackles and freakishly bad luck. But if a superstar’s career was lost over a $10,000 bounty? That would be a deplorable act that no player should ever be comfortable with accepting.
The thought of a bounty program has to sicken so many around the league. When players, friends or otherwise, shake hands before and after games, they almost always depart with a wish of, “Stay healthy,” or something of that nature. The players are driven against one another due to their laundry, and some of them absolutely find a reason to hate their opponents. Yet, through it all, they’re united by their wishes of good health.
The Saints broke that code.
That’s the heart of the matter here, you three. You, of all players and people should understand that. You want to stand behind your other ‘brothers’ of the NFLPA? Then you should be applauding a decision like this because it will truly be in the best interest of all players, your teammates included, and their safety.
Now say that in 140 characters or less…….
Topics: Anthony Hargrove, Bountygate, Fetured, Gregg Williams, James Harrison, Jonathan Vilma, Lamarr Woodley, Mickey Loomis, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Ryan Clark, Saints, Scott Fujita, Sean Peyton, Steelers, Will Smith