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Editor's column: Saints these boys are not

March 24, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Drew Brees is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints (he plays on the side of the ball where players aren't encouraged to rip a person in half like a bread stick and end his career). Earlier this week, Brees, who would finish a close third to crawfish and shrimp in a Louisiana popularity contest, posted a letter on his foundation's website saying there is no place in the NFL for players "to conspire, to be coerced, or to be incentivized to intentionally injure another player." Think he wrote that himself? Sure, and Obama writes his speeches. Brees went on to say he did not participate in any bounty program, "nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."

OK, Brees, you've got your butt covered. The people of Louisiana still adore you. Well done, sir.

Now on to the rest of the group.

The NFL laid down its version of the law Wednesday by suspending head coach Sean Payton for a full season and defensive/bounty coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely after the team's bounty program was exposed earlier this year. Tony Soprano and Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri have more class than this couple.

The team will also lose money and some draft picks, along with face. Lots of face. Used to be, Saints fans wore paper bags over their heads out of sheer embarrassment. I think it's the coaches' turn.

Kudos to the NFL for punishing the Saints; they had it coming. With any luck, the NFL's actions will make teams think twice about initiating bounties on players - financial incentives to knock opposing players out of games and, on a good day, have them carted off the field.

The news about the penalties isn't surprising, and neither is some of the reaction from former players, some of whom must have taken one too many blows to their dome during their playing days.

Former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington, who writes a blog for the Washington Post titled "Hard Hits" (you know where this is going), can't seem to understand why the league cracked down on the Saints and why people are so upset about the bounty issue. Arrington says the NFL breeds "a culture where it's an unwritten part of the game to get the best opposing player out of it, that's what players have done and still do to this day. The fact that there's such outrage appears to be a bit strange to me."

Really, LaVar? How moronic are you? You don't see the reasoning behind the league punishing a team that gives financial rewards for breaking someone's leg or neck, or ending their career? You don't understand why there's outrage?

Arrington's comment is comical, but he's partly right - the NFL doesn't exactly shy away from promoting its hardest-hitting starts. Football players like Arrington compete in the most violent game on the planet. They know the inherent risks involved. Legs get broken, shoulders get separated, brains get scrambled like eggs no matter how much protection a helmet provides, and deep down the players charged with stopping the other team surely take some pleasure in putting a quarterback or receiver, not just on his back end, but on the bench for the rest of the game.

Violence is football and football is violence, but players shouldn't need incentive for knocking an opponent out of the game and they shouldn't cash in for doing it. There should be outrage in this case. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with a little outrage.

How hypocritical can pro football players be anyway? The players who participate in bounties know the more they injure a player, the more pain they inflict, the more money they rake in from these bounty pools, then, when the guy is laying there, unable to turn his head or move his arm, they gather around in a circle, take a knee and pray for him? Players are concerned about getting a career-ending concussion but will just as soon risk it for an extra grand by putting their head down and trying to destroy the quarterback or receiver with a helmet-to-helmet shot. Then, long after they retire, the same players demand more money in pensions and better treatment from the league because their short-term memory is toast for all the abuse they took and dished out for a few years for the team.

Paying players more for this many interceptions or that many forced fumbles is one thing, but for injuring opponents? That's not football. That's dirty. That's barbaric. Kinda sick actually.

Yes, we love the hard hits that make a quarterback's head snap back like a crash test dummy's - what would football be without them - but we would prefer coaches just give the hitter a slap on the butt for a hard hit, not a wad of cash. Leave that to Mr. Soprano.



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