By Mickey Charles, CEO, President - Archive - Email
Titles like this are reserved for Hollywood and cable television
Gregg Williams (left) and the Saints raised the stakes a bit - quite a bit.
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) - "The Bounty Hunters." It has to be a film starring Jason Statham, Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise. However, that is not the case. It is a soap opera, not an adventure series or a reality show, but it does, sadly, have some disheartening reality associated with it, sponsored and underwritten by none other than the NFL.

Apparently, the New Orleans Saints had this practice in effect for about three years. It was no longer a matter of playing as hard as one could and just making the tackle, sacking the quarterback, doing all that without anyone having to call 9-1-1. Then it seems like there was a private showing of "The Last Boy Scout," and Saints players were instructed to leave their firearms home but do all they could to the opposition without firing a shot. Injure a key player, take a skill position opponent out of the game without any need for a tribute area to be formed outside the stadium after the encounter, where fans could deposit flowers and notes. No brownie points or extra monies for creating a memorial but it couldn't hurt, or so seemed to be the case.

The Saints are not alone. Other teams had the same practice and, from all appearances, the NFL looked the other way or dismissed reports as meaningless rumors, and no one stepped up to dissuade them otherwise. "Kill or be killed" began to take on an ominous meaning in the league and Roger Goodell and friends were forced to act. How do you differentiate outstanding plays made during the course of the game from putting the quarterback on the sidelines without maiming or crippling him? Carefully, very carefully, with well-chosen words of encouragement before the game and at halftime.

Rewards as motivational tools to inspire and recognize the guys who made outstanding plays during the game. My gosh, that sounds good. Just like a real business. The only difference eventually brought to light was that, with professional football, injuries are an accepted part of the game so incurring one is analogous to creating one. It comes under risks and hazards. The Saints just raised the stakes a bit - quite a bit. Take him out of the game!

Now, that is inspirational and spurs 6-foot-8, 360-pound defensive linemen to greater heights. That become the job, like stepping into the ring - take him out! It is a contact game, a ferocious one, and that is the anticipated end result, not "Did I hurt you? Can I help you up? Was that hit a bit too hard? Sorry."

It is a war within a sport. How about if there is no extra motivation during the course of a season or a game, but, when signing a contract, players are made to understand what their role is - on defense, get the other guy and use every means you can that is legal, do not hold back; on offense, protect our skill guys and make room for them to do their thing, remove any obstacle that stands in the way of that. And, carry that thinking throughout the course of the season.

No matter what punishment Goodell employs to make his point and dissuade others from creating bounties on opposition players, the game goes on, as violently as before. How else to do what one is paid to accomplish. Knock the other guy down! If that results in down and out, out of the game, so be it and you knew that could happen. What there has to be is a limit on concussions before we have vegetables coming out of the game and the good life of later years is nothing more than a dream turned nightmare. But, let's leave that for another day.

The whole thing is the matter of bounties, not payments or incentives for good plays made. A pitcher who throws a no-hitter, or a quarterback who wins the Super Bowl, knows it is a team sport, although he is made the star and then buys Rolexes for all his teammates. Nice gesture and tax deductible. Payments for great plays and support, protection, provided but not for going out with the full intention of injuring the opposition - helmet-to-helmet or spikes high (if still worn) sliding into second base to take the shortstop or second baseman out of the game besides breaking up the potential double play. Where, pray tell, is this invisible line? We won't even get into the NHL, where fighting with intent to injure is part and parcel of the event.

If you steal $100,000, you are a thief. How about if you steal $10? Still a thief? In other words, what is the line where payments or other incentives are really stimulants for taking your game up a notch versus putting another notch on the barrel or handle of that gun of yours, or your belt?

Let's face it, we are dealing with semantics in a violent game. That is what people are paid to do - hit the opposition as hard as they can. If it results in an injury, it is unintended, everyone from both teams gather around the player on the ground, instant prayer sessions are held, the player is taken off the field on a gurney raising a weakened hand to signal that he is relatively fine, some applause ensues and the game goes on.

The NFL promotes the violent nature of the game. EA creates games emulating it. The bigger the hitter, the more he gets paid. The Saints did what all others are, basically, doing but they reached back and created a movie - a sequel to all others that preceded it - "The Bounty Hunters," bring 'em in dead or alive. Had they told their players to go out and play hard, beat the living you know what out of them, take them out (I leave the connotation up to you), make sure that he (whoever he is) knows that this is a war and we take no prisoners, hit as hard as you can and try (operative word) to stay legal. It was the extra money for doing what they, the players were already paid to do anyway.

It is a savage and intense game, professional football, and there is no denying that. All the current furor has established is that Bounty is a good name for a ship, not a reward for doing what you are paid to do anyway. Will all this nonsense change anything at all? You gotta be kidding! Only the manner of payment will change as well as what it is called - salaries, bonuses, incentives, inducements, encouragements, rewards, inspirational motivation. It walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but, surprise, it is a swan!

You gotta be kidding!

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