All of a sudden the NFL has religion.
The commissioner is leading the way. Roger Goodell believes now is a turning point in the league’s history as it addresses violence on the field.
Bounty-gate would be the catalyst, I would assume.
That the New Orleans Saints had some kind of program that rewarded players for big hits or “cart-offs” is one thing, but punishing this group, when its very likely (wink, wink) this occurred elsewhere is a tough trail the Commish is trying to traverse.
There is the argument that “this is football.” Brett Favre said as much, even as he was the human pinata, courtesy of the Saints in the NFC title game in the ’09 season.
Truth be told, the toothpaste is already out of the tube. Putting it back in will be messy as others not even employed by the Saints, scattered throughout the league, will be hit by the fallout.
The Browns’ Scott Fujita even admitted to Peter King of Sports Illustrated that he helped fund an incentive program in New Orleans that rewarded “interceptions and big plays.”
Fujita said, however, he would never be a part of any plan to injure a player or take away his ability to make a living.
Knowing of the actual intent of the defensive player is next to impossible. It’s not like a couple of linebackers run down a ball carrier, grab each leg and yell, “Make a wish!” and snap a femur. Football has for years made mounds of money celebrating huge hits. The crowds roar, the sport’s appeal rises.
Go back to ancient times. The Gladiators fighting to the death; the crowds in a frenzy. It’s unlikely the old Colosseum was filled with people wanting thumb wrestling matches. They wanted blood.
At the very least, the so called master of mayhem, Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator, will be suspended for several games if not the whole season. Players, perhaps even Fujita, could serve suspensions. Anything is possible.
Commissioner Goodell has shown the league to be very concerned for players suffering from concussions. Colt McCoy’s incident with James Harrison served as a springboard for safer measures.
But just how safe does Goodell want the game to be? How many measures can they put into place before the NFL resembles flag football? If the game is toned down, how long before fans tune out?