Were Bears Players Targeted In Saints Bounty Fund?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jonathan Casillas #52 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with Roman Harper #41 and Jonathan Vilma #51 after sacking Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears at Louisiana Superdome on September 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Recall that in week 2, Earl Bennett took a Roman Harper helmet-led spear (or maybe just a Roman spear?) to the chest which knocked him out for five games, Gabe Carimi suffered what later became a season-ending knee injury, and Jay Cutler even had his throat stepped on. Yesterday, news broke that the Saints under Gregg Williams instituted a bounty fund, which according to the NFL rewarded Saints defensive players $1,500 for forcing a player out for a game and $1,000 for forcing a player to leave the field, with multipliers for plays made in the playoffs. In his earlier defensive coordinator stint with the Washington Redskins, according to some former players, Williams also had a similar setup. So naturally, the Bears are wondering if the injuries to the above-mentioned players were part of the bounty pool.

After one sack of Cutler during the Week 2 loss in the Superdome, right tackle Frank Omiyale -- filling in for the injured Carimi -- pulled a rusher off the quarterback igniting somewhat of a skirmish between he and the defender. Asked what prompted the tussle, Omiyale at the time said "they were doing some dirty stuff."

Chris Harris didn't exactly seem surprised by this turn of events...

"Doesn't surprise me. Everyone does it they're just the ones who got caught. It's part of the NFL culture."

Harris also said later...

"Football is a violent game and just because someone is hit very hard doesn't mean it's malicious."

Maggie Hendricks, the author of the above-linked article, does make a good point when she says when a player is paid to injure another player, it fits the definition of malicious. The question I have is, if Harris says everyone does it, do the Bears have a bounty pool or other reward for injuries like this as well? It's one thing to go out, make hard hits and play defense, but it's another thing to play to intentionally injure another player. And defensive players, while they do have a risk of being injured, usually aren't making hard hits or helmet shots when they don't know where they are or anything - offensive players are usually in more at-risk positions where injuries are generally more likely anyway.

I have no problem with hard defensive play. I do have a problem when hard defensive play is confused with "out to cause injuries to offensive players."

What do you guys think of the bounty pool? And what, if any, punishment does Williams deserve?

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