There are so many conversations springing from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal that the waters got muddied too quickly. In the rush to make the point that “bounties are no big deal” or “all bounties or extra payments are terrible and unacceptable” people are forgetting to make some key distinctions. One is the distinction between trying hard to make a big hit or play and intentionally trying to injure someone, the second is a distinction between rewarding a player for making a tough play vs rewarding a player for injuring an opponent.
Those things are absolutely and unequivocally not the same, and I don’t understand why many writers don’t see it or haven’t made a better effort to point it out to the public. Guys get injured on fairly minor plays (think Eagles Jason Babin smushing Cowboys Tony Romo’s hand against his helmet) and bounce back up from hard hits and play the next snap (think Darren Sharper destroying Kevin Faulk who bounces up after the play like a Bop Bag). A hard hit is not necessarily an attempt to injure nor is an injury guaranteed. That’s why tying rewards to injuries goes beyond asking guys to make a play, and crosses the line over to encouraging them to do something beyond that like twisting an ankle at the bottom of a pile or hitting late or low.
Ethically, paying players extra for a hard hit violates nothing in the game except the collective bargaining agreement as incentives should be included in contracts and counted against the salary cap. But paying players under the table for hurting another person is the part that is wrong, and no amount of excuses is going to make that feel right when it’s considered thoughtfully.
I also think some are grossly out of touch with players especially the modern player. Today’s players are even more concerned about their fellow man than guys in the past. Nowadays, guys consider themselves to be a part of a very elite fraternity. Many played together in college, some party together, they tweet each other, express a desire to play together, narrate each other’s profiles, and so on. Even fierce rivals like Terrell Suggs and Hines Ward will appear on TV together. The vast majority of players are NOT out to injure each other though they may be ready and excited about inflicting a little pain in the name of good football. And, of course, occasionally there may be a moment of anger where they DO try to injure whoever has pissed them off but that does not reflect most players’ general approach to their jobs. Besides, many times those angry plays tend to stand out (think: N’damukong Suh on Thanksgiving Day).
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