|Let the dawgs loose Gregg|
Since the news broke last Friday about the Saints and the 'so-called' bounty program, I've just been sitting back, gathering thoughts and listening what both former players and those who have very little understanding of the workings of professional sports - WHICH IS MOST OF THE MEDIA. I've listened to call-in shows and watched media do interviews on the street with fans. Now it's time for me to say a few words on the issue.
First of all, let me be transparent: I am a Saints fan and also have played football on a high level. I am in my 40's so my perspective is going to be a little different from this soft world we live in. Now, with that said, I will try to be as unbiased as possible in my thoughts regarding this issue.
First let me get this out the way, I hate the word bounty. Sounds very sinister and governmental. In addition, if you want to look at the true meaning of the word, it can mean to kill. That's pretty brutal and cold hearted. I will talk a little more about the nature of football....or what it used to be shortly. For now, I will call it a 'Pain Program'. I will venture to say that 100% of this pain money was not for the intention to severely injure, or end another players career. Even the Oakland Raiders of the 70's and 80's didn't look to take another player out for their career. As much as people would like to believe that Jack Tatum intended to paralyze Darryl Stingley on that infamous hit few people have actually seen, the hit was legal and within the rules. Also, let me make this clear, IT WAS JACK TATUM'S JOB TO MAKE A RECEIVER PAY FOR COMING ACROSS THE MIDDLE TO CATCH A PASS.
In fact, as the story goes., Al Davis drafted Tatum for that specific reason. Al was said to be disgusted by teams in his division running and completing 20-25 yard deep in routes. Well, Jack put an end to that real quick. You ran that route at your own risk against the Raiders. Were there instances of the Raiders playing dirty? Yes!. The NFL even changed the rules due to a lot of the their style of play in order to penalize dirty play.
|A clean hit paralyzed Stingly. It's the cost of playing|
What was not changed was that Football, AT EVERY LEVEL, is about ENFORCING YOUR WILL on another player until you totally break their will. Hitting them extremely hard until either they are too soft physically to play anymore or they stay in the game, but are too mentally weak and they hide from the physical nature of the game. That's football in its simplest form, from Pop Warner to the NFL.
|Pop Warner ally drill. Players learn early to inflict pain|
|This is never good to see, but what are the odds of it hapenning|
We were taught to tackle by running trough the ball carrier and we were taught to block by running through a defender. As a running back, we were taught to run through the tackler. If you are not in full speed mode in football you will get hurt, BUT also, you WILL hurt somebody in the process. As an ex free safety I looked up to Ronnie Lott and Dennis Smith as the guys who I wanted to emulate. They hit you hard so that you felt it and hit you hard enough, that your wind is just squirting out of you like air out of a balloon when squeezed. That flush hit. Heck yeah baby.
Needless to say, with the desire to knock the crap out of people comes joy. Let me take the media out of the situation and keep it to the players. When you get a big lick on a guy and he is laid flat out you look forward to seeing that in the film room the next day. The coach or player who has the clicker, keeps hitting rewind about 10 times before you watch the next play. Your teammates, who you are really playing for (sorry fans and media, players don't give a crap about you), jump up on the sidelines and congratulate you when you get that big hit. Some teams used to give out the big hit of the week award as long as it was clean. You would get a gift card to a restaurant or to a spa so that your wife./girlfriend could go. It's just how it works.
THE UNWRITTEN CODE OF FOOTBALL:
As a true player, you don't mind playing against good players but there are a few types of guys who get 'special attention' on the football field:
1. The prima donna QB. Always a target to get his butt spanked and abused when given a chance. With the rules basically placing the red, no-touch jersey on the QB, if you can get to them, you try to drive them in to the ground with extreme force. And heaven forbid he throws a pic......oh my.
|Definitely going after him with bad intentions|
2. Scat-back running back. Think of the Reggie Bush, pretty boy type. The back who is quick and fast and always seems to sneak out of bounce before you can get a good lick on them. Hey, it's not their fault they are quick, but he will definitely be a target on the field.
3. The prima donna wide out. The Chad Johnson's and Terrell Owens' of the NFL are always targets to be 'taken out' or in players term, 'to shut them up'. League rules have now given these types of guys freedom to catch passes AND not be hit, that when a defender gets a chance to hit them, defenseless or not, they will run trough them when possible.
|Players want to lay the wood to these two ladies|
|You don't think players want to be the one standing over Hines|
The type of players mentioned above, will get talked about a lot leading up to a game by the opposition. No player wants to be embarrassed on the field and these guys know, especially now that every thing is reported in the media, what other players do. If a receiver likes to do the salsa after touchdowns, other players know it and they do not want to be the team that he does it on. What do you think the team talks about during the week? Dancing with him? And football isn't the only sport. You don't think there were pain contracts on MJ when he came in to the NBA? Ask him about the so-called Jordan Rules that the Detroit Pistons used back in the 80's and 90's. Do you think that it was a pure defensive strategy? All Chuck Daley probably said was, every time he goes to the basket make him pay. Is this monetary pay? Think again my friend. This was about inflicting Jordan with enough pain that he would become a jump shot player. If they break his nose or blacken his eye in the process.....oh well.
|No 'bounty' here|
I hate these idiots using the play for pay statement. It's the NFL, THEY ALREADY PLAY TO GET PAID. And they get paid well. Do you think $2,000 is going to make a difference to these guys. That's literally pocket cash to these guys. Even an undrafted rookie makes a minimum of $375,000. Do you think even he is driven by an extra couple of grand. Maybe start upping that to $10-20,000 and guys start really caring, but how big a game would that have to be for that type of money to be offered for a play. And trust me, that play would have to change the complexity of the entire game. An example of that is the hit Kurt Warner took when he played the Saint's during the playoffs during the 2009 season. That changed the game and yes, I hope some cash was dolled out. It was legal as heck and as much as I like Warner and respect him as a man of God, he shouldn't have thrown the pic, and most of all, he knows the rule with defenders after an interception which is to look for the QB or a dude like T.O to hopefully get a good hit on.
These guys don't get off on the money, it's the fact that they did what it took to get it: that's the high. What's the difference in that example and a manager going to a sales force and telling them if you guys hit this number we all will take off tomorrow, or if a sales guy brings in X amount of dollars, you get two days of 'free' vacation. No difference in my book shorty.
So as you can tell, I can care less that friendly bets or rewards were made for big hits and hitting a guy so hard that they leave the game. It happens with interceptions, fumbles, sacks, etc. It's done on every team, and in every league that has a level of physicallity. What worries me is that the league is now suddenly all stunned and alarmed. Are you kidding me? Really? You had no idea that any of this was going on? It's just another way players feed off the fact that this is a physical game and it is feast or famine. As a football player from birth you learn certain rules: Keep your head on a swivel, don't stand around piles, play till the whistle is blown. There are many unwritten rules or laws that you must abide by in the NFL because if you don't, you will be taken out eventually. In addition, as a player, you know that if given the opportunity to get a big hit on you by the opposition, its lights out baby. Nothing personal. Just Business.
The league is definitely changing and not for the good. Yes, the protection of players will always be important but the commissioner has done a bad job of keeping the game of football what it stands for: FORCING YOUR WILL. What's next to destroy this game I don't know but it feels that we are heading towards flag football in the future.
Now that you know where I stand, I will give you the biggest disappointment, in my mind, of this whole Saint's issue: SOMEBODY RATTED.
That's the dude, not Gregg Williams, Sean Payton or any players, who should have his butt whipped. This person is not a whistle blower who uncovers something illegal like a embezzlement, or lying to a consumer, or child labor. This is a bitter dude who should have kept his mouth shut. Yes, NFL is a male fraternity and one of it's main rule is, 'what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room'. You don't go home running your mouth to your wife or girlfriends or especially the media about anything that happened in the locker room. I've seen an instance where a brother got his butt kicked for that transgression. Thats one of the things about the new breed of NFL players, or this whole generation in general, that is really bad, which is the need to let everyone know everything. Not everything needs to be shared with the public and this Pain Program was was one of them.
More disgusting is individuals like Coy Wire who feel the need to get their last 5 minutes of fame by plastering his face all over the national media telling his story. Also, others, like Steve Young, have chimed in about their total shock and disgust at the report. Pretty well expected from a QB. What I do like is how Brett Favre, a target of the so-called bounty, and Michael Vick, who both said they are ok with being targeted and that they know it's just part of the game.
Lastly, the media should be taken behind the woodshed for their coverage of the investigation and how they are comparing it to the spying that the Patriots did. Really? That conversation is for a different time.
Here is what I do know: Football, until they get out the flags and take off the pads, will always be a man's game and a game of physicality. Big men run full speed at each other. Some of them, like my old friend Howard Ballard, could separate the nastiness of the game from doing a job. But for others, its a game of busting somebody up. As long as there are Southern brothers playing, it always will be that type of game - you know I had to sneak that in.