Last week the NFL exposed a bonus performance system that Gregg Williams used while he was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints that breaks the league’s rules. In the system, players received cash for not only performance, but also bounty payments for injuring players.
The NFL’s investigation which originally began in 2010 discovered that Saints players received $1,500 for a "knockout" hit and $1,000 for a "cart-off" hit, with payouts doubling or tripling during the team's three playoff appearances in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Knockout hits refer to a player being knocked out cold. As you can probably guess, a cart-off hit is an injury that leads the player to being taken out of the game.
This was the case for former Detroit Lions running back James Stewart. Former Buffalo Bills safety, Coy Wire, ended Stewart’s career with a hit and was rewarded for it. Stewart was just 31 and coming off of season in which he rushed for more than 1,000 yards when he stopped playing because of the injury.
Wire said, "I shattered James Stewart's shoulder, and he never played again. I was showered with praise for that. It's a shame that's how it was. Now I see how wrong that was." Wire played for Williams from 2001 – 2003 when he was the Bills’ head coach. He says that the environment was one of malicious intent.
Williams was summoned to the league’s headquarters in New York for a meeting today. He will discuss the allegations with NFL security officials and general counsel, Jeff Pash. He has already admitted that the bounty system existed in New Orleans and acknowledged that it was wrong. The meeting will address whether he used a similar system at other teams he coached including the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. It is anticipated that Williams’ discipline will be severe and unprecedented.
I am disgusted by the bounty system. I understand the physicality of the game and the competitive war mentality that these players have developed. It has been engrained in them since they were little boys playing Pop Warner football. A friend of mine shared that he remembers his little league team giving an award to the player who had the “hit of the week.” What little boy would not want to receive that praise in front of his peers? I get motivating players to perform at the best of their ability. However, to coach or play this game with the cruel intention to injure another player and end his career is unconscionable.
Williams should not be the only person punished. Players should be punished for their participation in funding these bounty payments. They have damaged their counterpart’s careers and lives. Their actions make a mockery of everything that the NFL and NFLPA are doing to increase safety, decrease injuries and protect THEM!
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith the executive director of the NFLPA need to send a strong message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in professional football.
Heels & Helmets®