Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered the system on that team, the NFL said. Neither New Orleans coach Sean Payton nor team general manager Mickey Loomis stopped the bounties, even after they learned of the league’s investigation. Loomis wouldn’t intervene even after the team’s owner ordered him to, the NFL said. On Tuesday, Loomis and Payton apologized to team owner Tom Benson and said “this will never happen again.”
This bounty system is astonishing ... outrageous ... and apparently not unusual in the league. Former NFL strong safety Matt Bowen recounted his experience for Chicago Tribune readers:
Prices were set on Saturday nights in the team hotel. In a makeshift meeting room, with the whisper of evening traffic pouring in from the Beltway, we laid our bounties on opposing players. We targeted big names, our sights set on taking them out of the game.
Price tags started low during the regular season — a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees. Chop him down and give a quick smile when you got back to the huddle. You just got a bonus. ... I’m not saying it’s right. Or ethical. But the NFL isn’t little league football with neighborhood dads playing head coach. This is the business of winning. If that means stepping over some line, you do it. ... Win or else. That’s the drill.
Time for a new drill. “This type of conduct will not be tolerated,” says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.”
The best prevent defense is to drive up the cost of getting caught. Start by banishing all those implicated in this scandal from the game for one year. Let them watch next season from the couch. That would snap players’ and coaches’ heads back like a stiff forearm to the face mask.
And none too soon. The NFL is already scrambling against a blitz of lawsuits by hundreds of retired NFL players who claim the league didn’t do enough to protect them from the effects of repeated blows to the head and multiple concussions.
Now the league needs to show it is serious about ending a disgraceful bounty system that also endangers players. Hit hard, Commissioner Goodell.