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The Bounty System in the NFL

Updated on April 18, 2012


Just over a week ago, a scandal broke in the National Football League. The New Orleans Saints found themselves caught up in an investigation involving their former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. The premise for the investigation was based on Williams running a bounty system with his defensive players. According to the NFL, Williams would pay his players rewards for big hits and knocking opposing players out of games. There were incentives for the Saints’ players to injure opposing players.


The investigation is still in its early stages, and nothing conclusive can be said about it yet. The NFL claims to have good evidence to support their cause against Williams, but defensive players who played under Williams are denying any system ever took place. Obviously these players cannot admit to anything because they would be indicting themselves for taking part in something that clearly violates NFL policy. It might take a while, but the truth will likely come out following an arduous investigation.


This bounty scandal comes at a time when the NFL is working their hardest to make the game safer. The alleged bounty system goes entirely against what the NFL is working towards. Many fans are already upset with the plethora of new NFL rules that have been made to protect the players. It seems as though defensive players have to be on eggshells for the most part. The quarterback has become so overly protected that it is almost impossible to hit him anymore. Wide receivers are considered “defenseless” more often than they are eligible to be tackled. Many people have accused the NFL of becoming “wimpy,” and the old joke always is to say the NFL acronym stands for “No Fun League.”


The Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison has come out numerous times against the NFL. He has paid thousands of dollars in fines for hits he has made. Other defensive players have spoken out as well because they feel as though their rights as a player have been taken away. They cannot play as defensively as they would like. The spot for the kickoff was moved to avoid such hard hits, and a rule was made to keep the wedge from happening. The rules and procedures have been made more intense to protect the players when they have concussions.


I am in favor of keeping the players safe. It is never worth seeing a player have a life-altering injury from a game. However, part of football is the intense hitting. There have been some rule changes that have taken away from defensive players.


I am not surprised if this bounty system was taking place with the Saints. Everyone knows that big hits draw ratings and help to fire up the team. Most defensive players already have incentives built into their contracts for tackles and other plays. I can understand defensive coaches and players have a pool or incentive program for big hits. They thrive off these hits, and a solid hit can change the complexion of the game.


The issue is, the bounty system has to be within reason. There is a difference between a big hit that is done within the rules of the game and a hit that is done with the intentions of injuring another player. I have absolutely no problem with players putting money on big hits; I do have an issue with players putting money on knocking players out of the game, though, and jeopardizing someone’s safety. I would guarantee that bounty systems are in existence in many NFL locker rooms. It’s ignorant to believe that this would only be going on with the Saints. The real issue at hand is whether or not these bounty systems are in place with the intention of causing injury. If they are just for big hits that fall within the rules, than why should we even care or make a big deal about it?


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    • Bigpayno profile image

      Bigpayno 5 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      I can't believe the players and commentators that are saying this isn't that big of an issue and that it's part of the game. It's called "Professional" football for a reason. These guys are supposed to be professionals and conduct themselves in such a way. There's no place for this in the league. I think they need to make an example out of Williams and suspend him indefinitely.

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @Bigpayno - If he was really putting bounties and incentives on injuring opposing players than I agree he should be made an example of. Unless they have players to testify against him, I feel like that will be hard to prove.

    • Bigpayno profile image

      Bigpayno 5 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      There's been a number of players from the Bills, Redskins, and Saints that are stepping forward, so I think they will have the evidence they need. I remember 2009 saying that the Saints were dirty, and there were quite a few players around the league the last few years saying Darren Sharper was a dirty player, so he must have wanted to win money more than any of them.

    • Joelipoo profile image
      Author

      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @big - It will just take time but Roger Goddell will hand out stuff punishments. We all know he's not afraid. He may not be on the Saints, but I think Ndamukong Suh is one of the dirtiest players in the league.

    • Bigpayno profile image

      Bigpayno 5 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      Oh yeah for sure. He says he's not but stomping on a player during a nationally televised game doesn't help your cause. Great hub man. I'll be sure to follow!

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @big - thanks

    • michiganman567 profile image

      michiganman567 5 years ago from Michigan

      I like big hits and good defense. It I want to watch a game with no defense and a final score of 55-53 I will watch arena football. I think that they are getting carried away with this. This whole story is probably sensationalized. In college they give helmet stickers for good plays. Is that a bounty as well? It sounds more like rewarding good tough football to me. I am with you on this one.

      With that said, If he did say take out their knees or something like that then I think that he should be banned from the sport. There is a difference between toughness and dirty play. I think that the NFL is becoming such a league of babies and they are blurring the two.

    • Bigpayno profile image

      Bigpayno 5 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      @Michiganman...I agree that the league is getting carried away with protecting the QB and illegal hits, but it's justified with all the concussions. Everyone loves to see big hits, and that's warranted, like the colleges awarding helmet stickers for those hits. But the difference is they aren't supporting illegal hits. If a defensive player gets a good hit and forces a fumble or causes a sack, that's what those stickers are for, not trying to take someone out of the game. Like I stated in my above comment, it's called professional football for a reason. These guys are supposed to be pro's, not thugs looking to hurt someone or end their career. I doubt if this story is glorified since he has accusations at numerous teams now. I also doubt if this is the only coach that's doing these things. I'm sure there are assistants of his from previous teams that are coaching elsewhere doing the same thing, whether it's college or pro.

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @michigan - I would agree that the league is definitely weakening in that sense that certain positions are getting babied. Even big hits that used to be allowed have now been made illegal.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Amazingly, or maybe not, this bounty scandal didn't surprise me at all. I have no doubt quite a bit of this goes on but maybe not in the same words. By its very nature football fosters this sort of thing. I love that the NFL Commissioner came down so hard on it only because I am so tired of the NBA and MLB Commissioners ignoring things in their sports that need to be handled with a firm hand. Tough subject and you handled it quite well.

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @billy - It doesn't surprise me at all either, and I assume it goes on around the league more than just this one. I appreciate how Goodell is always firm and about safety. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Shane 5 years ago

      I agree to come down hard if it is true. My only thing is that he needs to come down hard on all things wrong in the league. Like when New England was cought cheating and just got a little fine (like $20,000 that is like fine you or me $50) and nothing else happen about it. That's the only thing I think is messed up. Oh and it's the NFL you knew before you signed the contract the you was going to be hit hard. THATS WHY YOU GET PAID MILLIONS TO PLAY FOOTBALL BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING TO GET HIT AND HIT HARD SO IF YOU DON'T WANT THAT GO WORK A 9-5 JOB AND NOT MAKE MILLIONS AND STAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE. I'm not watching to see the QB run 20 yards and not get hit. That's just bullshit. The players now wouldn't make it in the old days. Players back then would kill them and like it. Their just to soft now!!!

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @Shane - Times change and so do sports and everything in life. We might not always agree with it, but some things are out of our control. In general, people are way too sensative in today's world. People are all about being politically correct, and it's a joke how soft people are(not just in sports).

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 5 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Yo Joe, you spelled Pittsburgh wrong. You must be from Ohio.

      Well, it was the great Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert who said quarterbacks should wear skirts. And now another great Steeler linebacker Deebo says they should wear a bra and panties under the skirt. He said except for Big Ben of course.

      It's getting to be a joke. What if MMA penalized a fighter for making another fighter bleed?

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @Blackandgold - You can't really compare the NFL to MMA; it doesn't work. It sounds like you might be a little bitter at the league since you have one of those dirty players on your team who was been penalized several times.

    • informitiveaction profile image

      informitiveaction 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      As a former player fullback and line backer from reck league to my last game your taught to play hard and you get rewarded for doing so i think the punishment was a bit harsh for the players.

    • Joelipoo profile image
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      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @informitive - It's a difficult situation to handle. Thanks for your input.

    • profile image

      Eric M. Scharf 5 years ago

      I have been making my way around the interwebs – taking in all the opinions levied against the NFL, NFLPA, and the bounty program to which they have been linked.

      I have another opinion (memorable, pithy, and loaded with entertaining color images) to add to the mix - entitled "Mutiny On The Bounty (System)."

      http://www.emscharf.com/blogosphere/torturedcowboy...

    • Joelipoo profile image
      Author

      Joelipoo 5 years ago from Ohio

      @eric - you should have shared your opinion instead of just leaving a link.

    • Earl Noah Bernsby profile image

      Earl Noah Bernsby 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      I agree 100% that big hits are a big part of the game, as long as they're clean hits. As a coach, to direct a player to intentionally sideline another player, or "Sweep the knee, Johnny!!" as it were, is deplorable, dishonorable, and detrimental to the whole league... Somebody get Mr. Miyagi to honk Greg Williams' nose!

      Very good article.

    • Joelipoo profile image
      Author

      Joelipoo 4 years ago from Ohio

      @earl - Thanks. Definitely a difference between a clean and dirty hit.

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