In case you haven't heard, judgment came for the Saints in the wake of the bounty pool scandal, and by any measure it was nothing short of substantial - two second round picks (one now, one next year), a year suspension for Sean Payton, an indefinite suspension for now-Rams DC Gregg Williams, an eight-game suspension for the GM, a six-game suspension for an assistant coach, and a half-million fine to the team itself along with another half-million from Payton.
That's a harsh punishment, but the NFL deemed it necessary. To be honest, so do I.
To start off, I understand what defensive players do in the NFL - I understand they want to make big plays, separate receivers from catches and running backs from holding onto the football by any means necessary, and sometimes that includes a big hit, an opponent caught unawares, or something else. And I understand that sometimes players in these spots get injured. Unfortunately, it can happen whether intentional or not.
When the story broke, Matt Bowen said on the radio that bounty pools for big plays, most sacks, that kind of thing - those happen all over the NFL. That's all fine and dandy. But that's not the problem here. I've got no problem with glorifying big defensive stat numbers like sacks, tackles, even quarterback hits. Couldn't care less. Happy, Spongie?
What's at the core here is this went beyond rewarding play - this went into intentionally injuring other players, sometimes star players. Rewarding for sacks? Fine. Rewarding for driving your helmet into Earl Bennett's chest? No.
Targeting a player's weak or recently injured spot is one thing - if you're going to play with an existing injury, better be ready for anything. But I don't like seeing players intentionally trying to break bones, cause concussions, and especially when targeting players such as Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, or our own Jay Cutler - any players, really. And when you mess around with the league's golden boys and money makers, that gets the league's attention.
Players get penalized all the time for late hits and giving a little extra to the quarterback, receiver or running back after the whistle, and that's usually in the spur of the moment. What's unforgiveable is when it's organized in this manner, and that's why the Saints deserved what they got.
What do you think? Should the Saints have gotten a more harsh punishment? Less? Would your position change if it were the Bears getting this punishment?