All the talk across the NFL right now concerns the bounty system that was implemented by Gregg Williams with New Orleans Saints. In addition to the system used in New Orleans, Williams is believed to have implemented similar systems when he coached with other teams in the past, such as Washington and Buffalo. Williams rewarded players with cash for hits in a game that caused injury to those on the opposing team, and the cash rewards were even greater in the playoffs. The bounties have sparked discussions and debates from players, former players, and analysts across the country.
I am not surprised to hear that bounty systems were common in the NFL over the years. NFL players, especially defensive players, walk a fine line between aggressive and malicious play. There are certain times when a player may cross that line. Furthermore, there are certain players that seem to be willing to do whatever it takes to win games. In addition, there are certainly coaches that will do whatever is necessary to motivate players to win.
With that being said, a player can balance tenacious play with a respect for the game. A player can have the intention to hit someone hard and even take them out of the game for a few plays. However, if the intention is to cause a severe injury or end the career of the opposing player, that is simply wrong. Players should have a certain level of respect for their opponent and the game.
I enjoy watching a tenacious defense led by big-hitters. But a hit that knocks the wind out of a player is more enjoyable to watch than a big hit that leads to a player being carted off the field. Some who have come to the defense of the bounty system have claimed that you can knock a player out of the game using a legal hit. It doesn’t matter whether the hit is legal or illegal, the intent to injure is wrong. The point is that the players are attempting to knock players out and inflict permanent injury, not just cause temporary pain.
Bounties are not necessary to motivate players. Enough players have come forward condemning the idea of bounties that I feel the game can be played without them. Players can be find other sources of motivation, whether it be the thought of playing for a Super Bowl or the fact that they signed a big contract.
The bounty system that was implemented should have rewarded players for making game-changing plays, such as interceptions or forced fumbles, rather than injuring the opponent. Former Washington Redskin players that played under Gregg Williams have claimed that this type of bounty system was used rather than one centered on injuring other players. If this is true, while it is illegal under the current rules, at least the system had the proper goals in mind. The rewards were based on big plays and were given to players who increased the team’s chance of winning. In New Orleans, on the other hand, the bounties seemed to miss the mark and were given for the wrong reasons.
Simply put, there should not be a bounty system implemented with any team in the NFL. Players should be motivated by the chance to win and the chance to make it to the Super Bowl. In fact, bonuses are placed in contracts to reward players for good play. While it is not on a game-to-game basis, if a player performs in each game, he will most likely be rewarded at the end of the season. Again, while it should not surprise fans that bounties were part of the game, the truth is that bounties are not necessary. Players should play hard and play fair, and the rewards will come.