By PATRICK SLACK
Any question about how seriously the NFL commissioner’s office considered player bounties was answered in resounding fashion Wednesday.
Commissioner Roger Goodell came down on the New Orleans Saints with all of the power he holds, handing out a year-long suspension to head coach Sean Payton, eight games to general manager Mickey Loomis, six games to assistant Joe Vitt and an indefinite punishment to departed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
It won’t mean much to Vikings fans, who watched the Saints defense attack Brett Favre in a borderline criminal manner in the 2009 NFC championship.
Still, it will forever taint that Super Bowl title for New Orleans, a just punishment.
The real crime in this case didn’t end up being that bounties were in place so much that New Orleans repeatedly lied and misled the NFL office about their existence.
The arrogance of Payton thinking that if the team “had its ducks in a row” it would be able to get by is appalling.
Then, he managed to drag Vitt down with him by having him try to cover up Payton’s involvement or knowledge of what was going on.
It didn’t help his case that the NFL is currently being sued by former players for not releasing documents that showed the debilitating impact football can have on players.
Any opportunity Goodell has moving forward to show that he’s trying to protect players, he’s going to take.
At their best, bounties are misguided – it sounds nice to give a player $1,000 for a sack or interception. But what if a defensive back tries to jump a route instead of being disciplined and gets burned for a touchdown? What if a defensive lineman doesn’t stay home on a screen because he wants to get paid?
But this was far worse, with players going out of their way to attempt to not just inflict pain upon, but injure and knock out fellow players.
Hopefully the incident helps clean up the game and discourages a brazen and frightening lack of concern not only for colleagues but human beings.