Ted Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints has recently come out in support of head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis in spite of his team standing accused of running a program where players were financially rewarded for injuring other players during the course of a game.
The Saints are alleged to have operated a bounty program where a pool of upwards of $50,000 was kept in order to reward members of the Saints team for injuring players during games, or causing them to leave the game because of injury. These payments were supposedly double or even tripled during playoff matches.
It now seems likely that the Saints stand to face severe punishment now that this program has come to light. They could possibly be looking at fines, suspensions and loss of draft picks, or a combination of all three.
In the days following the exposure of the Saints' bounty program, it became clear that it might not be the only team that pursued such practices. Former New Orleans assistant coach Gregg Williams, who is said to be one of the key players in this, also coached at Washington and Buffalo, and reports are surfacing that suggest there might well have been bounty programs in place at those teams.
My main problem with all of this is that I cannot see the necessity to offer extra financial benefit to a player who might cause another to possibly suffer a career ending injury.
Where is the morality in all of this? Where is the justification? And more importantly, what kind of coach needs to use such a system to inspire and motivate their team?
Is it not enough to be able to go out on to the field and play hard each and every Sunday? As we all know, football is perhaps one of the most physical sports in the world, and during the course of a season, there are going to be many injuries. And a small proportion of those injuries may spell the end of a career for some. But to try and encourage such behavior is beyond reprehensible.
And we must take a close look at Sean Payton and his role, or lack thereof, in all of this. The Saints were first investigated by the league in 2010, and it appears that even with this knowledge, Payton seemed unable or at worse unwilling to put an end to it. The fact that he appears to have let the practice continues makes him equally as guilty as those who were perhaps more actively contributing to it.
This could not have come at a worse time for the NFL, considering how much time and consideration they put in to ensuring player safety. Rules have been changed to make the game safer for its participants, but then along come New Orleans and show such a brazen disregard for this.
Perhaps Payton et al should take a note from former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka who, when asked if he was aware of any bounty systems in place during his time as a coach, said: "Not that I know of, and if it did happen, it would have stopped when I knew of it"
There speaks a man of integrity. A man with a confidence in his abilities as a coach of a hard hitting football team.
If players are coached correctly, and incentivized in the right
way, there is no need for something as pathetic as a bounty system.
The NFL needs to ensure that appropriate punishment is handed to down to the Saints' organization. This is a practice, that by many accounts has gone on for some time, and seems to have flown under the radar of league commissioners present and past. It needs to be stamped out, and football needs to remain a game played with passion and with pride, but not a game that gives money to people who might cut someone's career short.