Do you remember Super Bowl 44? Of course you do. Who could have forgotten the New Orleans Saints beating the Indianapolis Colts. What you probably forgot about was what was said before the game started.
Saints defensive coordinator went on a Nashville radio station and said his defense was going to get after Colts QB Peyton Manning. And when they did get to him they would give him some 'remember me' shots. At the time it was a topic of discussion as to what Williams meant by his comments. Was it an issue for the NFL? Hardly.
Fast forward to today. Former Saints defensive coordinator and the new defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, Gregg Williams is in some hot water. The NFL became aware that he had set up a 'bounty system' as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. An accusation that he doesn't deny. Neither does Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis.
The NFL also says that Gregg Williams was doing it as far back as his days with the Washington Redskins (2004-07) as their defensive coordinator. And when he was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills (2001-03).
Now what is a 'bounty system'? Simply put Williams was paying his players when they knocked opposing players out of a game. Now with this knowledge lets go back to that Super Bowl year for the Saints. Remember the knockout shot the Saint put upon Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner in the divisional playoff game? Remember the beating Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre took in the NFC Championship game?
Now with all this said I'm not surprised by any of this. I have made it known that I find the NFL's stance on player safety a little suspect. They have been promoting big hits ever since they started to gain national notoriety. I'm not saying the NFL shouldn't take player safety into account. I'm just looking at it with a skeptical eye.
Are the New Orleans Saints the only team to have a system like this in place? No. Are the Saints the only team this past season to have a system like this in place? Absolutely not. They are the first ones to have been caught though. And with that there will be a huge precedent when commissioner Roger Goodell hands down punishment for the Saints franchise.
With the emphasis now on player safety and the many lawsuits by former players coming at the NFL. They know they must make it clear that this is wrong on every level. Suspensions, taking draft picks, fines, you name it. All forms of punishment should be taken into account.
That includes the Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis. Both had to have known about this at some point over the three seasons Gregg Williams was there. We all wondered why they didn't sign QB Drew Brees to a long-term contract before they gave him the franchise tag. Now we know. They were distracted by this NFL investigation.
The only thing that does surprise me is the participation of the players. Yes the league is setup in a way where only a certain few players make a lot of money. But to inflict that kind of injury on another player knowing full well that not just his career, but his life could be at stake down the line is surprising to me.
It's a wake up call for the NFL. They know full well that 10, 20, 30 years down the road a lot of potential football players will go play a different sport with the fear of long-term health problems in the back of their minds. Whether that happens or not it's best that we remember the NFL isn't all it's cracked up to be.