The NFL says they did it. Greg Williams admits he did it. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have apologized for not stopping it. The New Orleans Saints had a bounty program in place that would reward players for big hits and bigger rewards for hits that took players out of games. Well, that's what they all say, so I guess it must be true.
But wait a minute. As the old lady on the Wendy's commercial used to ask, "Where's the beef?" In this case, where is the money?
Like most Saints fans, I sunk in my chair when I first heard the news but then I read one specific note that almost made me laugh out loud. The official version has marketing agent Mike Ornstein dropping $10,000 during a frenzied fund raiser the night before the Cardinals playoff game. There is "hard evidence" shown in an email from Ornstein to Sean Payton in which the agent offers another $5,000 to the cause.
If Ornstein was not caught up in any more fundraising frenzies, that would have him at the $15,000 level. Mike is a friend of mine and many others and one thing anyone who knows "Orny" can tell you is, Mike Ornstein did not part with $15,000. In fact, as much as I love Mike, I really couldn't see him parting with $15. Don't hate me Mike, but the man is cheap...really cheap. If this is part of the league's hard evidence, in a court of law, this would be laughed out of court.
Orny is like that uncle we all have. He is a ball of energy, sometimes brilliant and sometimes crazy.
There was no large pot of gold waiting at the end of the hard hit rainbow. It was all hype that maybe got out of hand. In the heat of the moment in a pro football version of a high school pep rally, players and others "pledged" money for all sorts of things. Did Jonathan Vilma say he'd give his $10,000 in cash to the player who sent Warner to the bench for the day? Seems so. Did he actually give anyone that $10,000 when Warner was taken off the field? I doubt it.
Yes, some players may have been given small amounts of cash for great plays, but we are talking pocket change for men making millions. What they got in these envelopes wouldn't buy a good seat and a hot dog for a Saints game in the Superdome. And as we are learning, most players gave it back...or were "fined" for a bad play.
This policy of handing out small bonuses for good plays is not just a Saints invention, its done all over the league. Its not new either. It's been around almost since the league began.
The NFL is saying that any cash dispersement sanctioned by the team is a violation of the salary cap rules. Like Al Capone going down for income tax evasion, that is ultimately the rules violation the NFL will need to enforce to punish its own. Well, that's a stretch. And apparently, its not being enforced evenly. If this is the course the league is taking, then shouldn't any player or team official who gives a player cash or a gift for exceptional play be in violation of that rule?
Peyton Manning will become a free agent and will seek a new home. But wait, how many games will the future Hall of Famer be suspended for? Yeah, you got it. Being a class act, he routinely gives gifts to his offfensive line. Sorry Peyton, see you in late September. I'm betting Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and most smart NFL quarterbacks have rewarded their offensive lines for good work. Ok, so take any quarteback who gave a gift out for a few games. Then of course, any linemen who took gifts must be suspended as well. Oh, yeah, if their coach knew, he's out too!
Without a calculator, I'd say about 80% of the league should be suspended. While we're at it, I have a feeling that Roger Goodell had an idea the gifting was going on all along and did nothing to stop it. So I guess he'll have to suspend himself while he's at it. Somebody needs to call Wilson and make sure his signature is not on game balls during his suspension, that wouldn't be right.
OK, now that's fair!
The reality is, bonuses have existed and go on all over the league. Saints coaches and management allowed a roudy situation to get out of control. But, if you have ever watched highlights when a player is "mic'd up" then you know how vicious taunting can be. Ray Lewis in not exactly known for blowing kisses at quarterbacks. It's a tough game played by tough men. Part of coaching players is to motivate them to play with as much intensity as you can get out of them.
There is a reason why Sean Payton gave up part of his salary to get Gregg Williams to New Orleans. The man motivates his players. The Saints defense had not really been feared before Williams' arrival and they were while he was there. If you played the Saints, you knew you had been in a game. How he motivated his players is now, immediately, a thing of the past. Perhaps too, is hard-hitting football.
Sadly, if the game continues to diminish the contact from this contact sport, in the future the two opposing coaches will meet midfield to have tea and toss the coin. Then, after retreating to their respective sidelines, they will play and intense but completely safe and polite game of Madden NFL.
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