Payin’ For Pain
March 07, 2012 at 10:54am by Scott • 5 Comments »
I sat on this Saints scandal for a few days because I wasn’t exactly sure what I felt about it, if anything. You’ve got to let the various waves pass before you can really get your mind around a situation like this. First, everyone is outraged and wants Gregg Williams fed to sharks. Then the overreaction to that hits and people start saying no one did anything wrong and this is football and it’s violent and shut up. And that goes back and forth for a while. Then former players start confirming what happened while others say they had no idea anything like that was going on what what a great guy Williams is. And now that hopefully everyone is a little more distracted with Peyton Manning and is leaving this alone for a minute, we can make some sense of it.
The only part of this that bothers me is if Williams gave instructions, incentivized or not, to injure a player. Not just hurt him, but do damage. Anything else is fair game in football. There’s a big difference between Williams telling a player to beat the shit out of Brett Favre and telling him to take him out. Everyone wants to beat the shit out of the opponent. That’s most of the reason you get into football (and the sweet painkillers). And outside of salary cap implications, there’s nothing wrong with a coach doling out some cash or prizes for particularly good plays or hard hits. No, players shouldn’t need extra motivation to do their job, but incentive programs are a part of just about every business. Jonathan Vilma may make a few million dollars per year, but there’s something extra sweet about the coach having to hand you a hundred dollar bill. At places where I worked we busted our asses just to be able to wear jeans on Friday. As long as the rewards aren’t significant enough to where they’re getting a salary cap advantage, I don’t care.
The league has made a special effort over the last several years to eliminate the plays that can do serious damage. Yes, a player can be injured on any weird hit or twist or turn. But you’re not allowed to go at a quarterback’s knees anymore, you’re not allowed to blindside a receiver when he’s up in the air catching a ball, you can’t lead with your head and use your helmet as a weapon anymore. I lamented the loss of some of these violent plays when they were outlawed because I thought they were pussifying the game. But if bounty programs around the league exist and players are going out there with the intent to maim, then the plays that made those injuries easier had to go. The harder they make it for headhunters to hide behind the “but it was a legal hit” excuse, the better. For example, it’s hard to argue that Rolando McClain isn’t trying to send this dude to the hospital.
And that’s why I’m glad it’s illegal and am glad he was penalized for it. That said, looking at the clips they showed of Williams-coached defenses, it’s hard to complain about most of those plays. That Saints game against the Vikings a couple years ago was pretty brutal, but were any of the hits really unreasonable? Hell, Favre was getting mad that his buddy was hitting him full speed.
“I’ve always been friends with Darren Sharper, and he came in a couple times and popped me hard. I remember saying, ‘What THE hell you doing, Sharp?’ I felt there should have been more calls against the Saints. I thought some of their guys should have been fined more.”
Was Sharper supposed to let up because they used to be on the same team together? Fuck that, man. That game was for the Super Bowl. Sharper didn’t do anything wrong. Except this:
“Well, y’all seen Brett had surgery on that ankle we got after in the championship game,” Saints safety Darren Sharper said. “Come Thursday night 1st game. X marks the spot.”
Going after a quarterback’s ankle, especially when it’s already hurt, is bullshit and has no place in the game. Be a man and hit him between the shoulders and the knees. There’s plenty to work with there. Defenders should be hitting players hard enough that it makes them hurt, hesitate, and ultimately give up. Not retire due to injury. If Gregg Williams was the one encouraging this kind of maliciousness, he should be expelled from the league regardless of if he was handing out rewards for it.