The Bounty System in the NFL
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?