Originally posted on Chicks in the Huddle  |  Last updated 3/3/12


Apparently when Gregg Williams schemed the Saints out of a comeback win in San Francisco this January, he wasn’t done with making us want to kick him in the face. News broke yesterday that the former defensive coordinator admitted to implementing a “bounty system” when he was with the team, one that awarded players cash for knocking opponents out of games, getting players carted off the field, and making interceptions, among other things. The admission was apparently spawned by the NFL’s investigation into whether the Saints defense was “playing dirty” in its Super Bowl winning season through last year. The investigation uncovered that Saints GM and head coach Sean Payton were apparently aware of the program, but did nothing to stop it.

Saints fans seem to be torn over how to process this new development with the team. Do we freak out, shrug or put those emotions on hold whilst we channel our energy into tracking down Sir Snitch-Alot who ratted out the team to begin with?

Why You Shouldn’t Freak Out
What the Saints did certainly broke league rules and potentially ethical rules, depending on how much of it is true. But let’s put some things into perspective. Defensive players who earn trips to the Pro Bowl, the Hall of Fame and who are awarded lucrative contracts and endorsement deals tend to be players who make their presence felt in a game. They’re not doing so by tickling their opponents on the tummy. They’re doing it by hard hits, knockouts, “jacked up” type plays. And so long as the hits aren’t dirty, they deserve whatever accolades come their way. If Saints players earned bounties for clean hits that got results, then what makes the bounty any different than the “above board” ways defensive players are encouraged to go after opponents? It’s one thing if they’re pulling an Ndamukong Suh, stomp you in the neck while you’re on the ground, type of move. But a clean hit that happens to keep a player on the ground a few extra seconds? Meh.

If the hits were dirty, why weren’t players penalized or fined during the games or the seasons? Furthermore, Saints players, beyond the rogue snitches, aren’t exactly co-signing on everything that came out in the report. Former Safety Darren Sharper denied that he and his teammates were encouraged to hurt opposing players. Here’s what he told NFL.com.

“I think this is something that, from when I got in the league in 1997, has happened thousands and thousands of times over,” Sharper said. “It’s ridiculous that someone is trying to say that we made bounties on knocking guys out, when basically all it was is that when a guy gets an interception, then he might get paid. That’s something that guys do amongst themselves.”

Sharper also made the point that a $10,000 bounty to take out players wouldn’t begin to cover the league’s fines for illegal hits. Other players have chimed in that bounty programs happen all over the league. The Saints were just the ones to get caught.

Feel better? You won’t for long.

Why You Should Freak Out
What the Saints are accused of doing could have major ramifications for the team next season. The league has strict rules about bounty programs and you’d better believe they will make an example out of the Saints. That means the team could be dealing with the suspensions of marquee players like Jonathan Vilma, who was cited in the report. Also, draft picks are potentially in jeopardy. General Manager Mickey Loomis, who reportedly knew about the program and did nothing, could lose his job over the whole ordeal. Here’s what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had to say:

“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.

Translation: Your ass is grass, Saints.

Beyond the impact this investigation can have on the team’s success, this whole mess about dirty plays has many fans feeling dirty, and understandably so. We love our team and we’d hate to think that players would intentionally hurt another player or ruin someone’s career for a few extra pennies. I love winning like the next gal and I’m certain I’ve shouted “Eat their young!” while in the stands a time or two. Still, even Nola Chick has her limits.

At best, a few Saints players got their pockets filled for legal hits, interceptions and fumbles that amounted to a few highlight reel plays but shouldn’t force anyone to lose sleep at night. At worst, it’s gonna take a lot more than a hot shower to wash the stink of this one off.

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