Football is a fast, hard, dangerous game. But the New Orleans Saints made it that bit more dangerous for their opponents by offering head-hunting bonuses for injuring players during the game. This is against NFL rules, and it’s rather surprising to find that players earning hundreds of thousands per year could be motivated by such relatively trivial sums ($1,000 to $1,500 for knocking players out of the game):
The National Football League on Friday found the New Orleans Saints guilty of a wide-ranging system of bounty payments to between 22 and 27 defensive players from 2009 through 2011, and player-safety-conscious commissioner Roger Goodell could bring the hammer down very hard on the franchise.
The most alarming finding by the league, according to one club source who was briefed on the investigation late Friday afternoon, was this: Before the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered any defensive teammate $10,000 in cash to knock then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. Favre was hit viciously several times in the game. Favre told SI.com Friday evening: “I’m not pissed. It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys.”
The details of Vilma’s offer were in a report to the 32 NFL owners, sent out by the league to detail further what the league’s 50,000-page investigation found.
Early indications late Friday afternoon were that the sanctions against the Saints and their former defensive coordinator who the league said administered the bounties, Gregg Williams, will be severe. The league said the penalties could include suspensions, fines and loss of draft choices — the latter of which could be particularly damaging to the Saints, who do not own a first-round pick this year. Their first choice will be late in the second round, the 59th overall … unless Goodell takes the pick away.
Football is a rough sport, but Goodell needs to crack down on this with enough force to send a message to the entire league. Taking away New Orleans’ draft picks would certainly be a punishment of that magnitude.