So Commissioner Goodell has handed down his punishment on the Saints, Sean Peyton, Micky Loomis and former Saints and now Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints organization was fined $500,000 and lost their 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013. Sean Peyton has been suspended for a year without pay. Micky Loomis is suspended for the 1st 6 games of the season, starting after the preseason ends. And Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
I think that part of the Commissioner’s punishment is so that it sends a clear message to not only the current league players, but to the future players of the NFL that bounties and dirty play will not be tolerated. This is more of a message to football players in general, not just those currently playing in the league. This is for the Pop Warner, junior high, high school, junior college and college players. This is sending a message on behalf of football in general to anyone who is or is considering playing football. I personally think the message is good, and I think the punishments fit the crime, but what I’m interested in finding out is the punishment that will be handed out by the league to the players. And if those players who have been put out of the league or lost income because of a hit that was deemed a “bounty” or “dirty” hit can come back around and sue the league and or the players and teams that allowed and encouraged it.
Additionally, my concern is that the commissioner is being this severe because of the recent and future legal battles that are facing the league due to concussions and health issues by current and former players. He has to give the impression that the league is concerned with the health and safety of the players. However, if he’s really concerned with the safety of the players, then the players should request the league to convert to flag football and see how he responds. The league would overnight become less popular than lingerie football.
If the commissioner were to poll every kid who currently plays Pop Warner, junior high and high school defensive football if they have been incentivized to hit players hard, most every one of them will say that at some time they have. Whether it was with money or pizza parties they all have. When I played football in junior high, high school and for the United States Marine Corps as a free safety, we defensive players were almost ALWAYS rewarded for big hits and told in advance that we would be rewarded for them. And I still think there’s nothing wrong with doing so as a coach or teammate. Where I think the Saints crossed the line, and any coach or player would as well, was by saying that they were rewarded for and incentivized to knock players out of the game or injure players. Had the players not said the words, “knock players out of the game” or "injure players" no one would have cared.
Bottom line is that football at any level is a violent game. Part of the popularity and success of the league and the game is because it is a violent game. If you start punishing people for being violent and aggressive then you lose the allure and excitement of the game. No one wants to see players get hurt intentionally, but what may look like an intentional hit, like some of James Harrison’s hits, or some of Rodney Harrison’s hits, or some of Steve Atwater’s hits, are nothing but a decision made in a microsecond by two or more players. ESPN and the NFL Network are showing clips of hits made by current and former Saints players as they are discussing the punishments handed out by the league. However, with the exception of the Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and Thomas (WR for the Redskins) hits, none of them look “dirty”. I’d like to give my “professional” opinion on a couple of these:
- Correct me if I’m wrong, but when is using the forearm and blasting a receiver in the CHEST as he catches the ball “dirty”?
- When is hitting Matt Stafford immediately after he releases the ball “dirty”?
- If you slow down the tape of Darren Sharper blowing up Kevin Faulk of the Patriots, you can see that Sharper is already in the process of lining up Faulk for a shot to the chest with his shoulder pad, Faulk makes the decision to drop his head and Sharper’s shoulder pads make contact with the helmet of Faulk. How is this “dirty”?
- Now I can see how the play that Tracy Porter makes on Percy Harvin could be considered as “dirty”. Porter clearly is taking aim at Harvin’s knees.
- Sharper’s hit on Steve Smith of the Panthers AFTER Smith scores a touchdown, yes, definitely a late hit and a “cheap shot”.
- The hit on Roddy White, not “dirty” because White lowers his head to protect himself.
I can remember times, as a free safety, where in the heat of the play, I lined up on a receiver to hit him in the back, and because the receiver made a decision after catching the ball to alter his body that my helmet or shoulder pads or forearm made contact with his head, or small of his back. Yes, I put some players out of the game, but never intentionally, however my intention was to hurt them to the point that they thought twice about coming over the middle or catching the deep ball again. There were times where I would go low to tackle a running back and because he altered the placement of his feet and/or legs, I made contact with his knees. Now if you look back on it now, if there was any video tape of it, it might look like I “intentionally” targeted the helmet, small of the back, or knee area. Nothing could be farther than the truth. Again, my intention was to make that player think about making that decision again, that he would suffer consequences for doing so. Just like there were receivers who made me think twice about chasing that receiver who caught the ball on the short crossing route after blowing me up on a blindside block because I wasn’t looking downfield.
Football is a violent sport where people are going to get hurt. As a football player, especially in high school and college, you HAVE TO EXPECT THAT AT SOME POINT YOU WILL BE INJURED, and maybe even to the point that you can’t play anymore. You do things to minimize the risk, but there’s only so much you can do.
As always I welcome your thoughts.