Now the Government Is Looking Into NFL Bounties

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Michael Garcia - March 23, 2012

Even though NFL commissioner Roger Goodell threw down unprecedented suspensions on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty program, Senator Dick Durbin has announced he's setting up a Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue. I hate to be 'that' guy, but don't they have better things to do?

Senator Durbin apparently wants to see if their should be a federal law against the type of 'pay for pain' scheme the Saints were running. The NFL took harsh steps in punishing the Saints, coach Sean Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and that should be enough. 

Bounties, where defensive players would get a pot of money for knocking an opposing player out of a game, have been around for a while. Former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner said in a radio interview that while he didn't have direct knowledge of any bounty systems, he was sure they existed.

And I'm not going to tell you that I haven't believed that there was probably defensive players that got together and said, ‘Hey, you know, a thousand bucks for the first guy to knock Kurt out of a football game.'  I'm sure that's been a part of our league for a long time.

That doesn't make it right, but does it really give guys making 75, 80, or 100 thousand dollars a game an incentive to go out and intentionally hurt someone? Probably not. These guys play an intensely violent game, knowing they are risking their future health on every single play. Most of them aren't going to go out of their way to try to destroy a fellow player's livelihood for what amounts to pocket change.

In the 1970s, the Oakland Raiders were defined by their hard hitting style. Jack Tatum was one of the most feared defenders in the league. George Atkinson, Tatum's defensive backfield mate recently said that he had Tatum would put money in a two man pot before a game and whoever got the biggest hit that day would take the cash. Atkinson said that wasn't a bounty though, it was just a bet between the two of them.

In 1989, the Thanksgiving game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys became known as 'Bounty Bowl I.' Philadelphia allegedly had bounties on Dallas QB Troy Aikman even on the kicker, Luis Zendajas, who actually got a concussion in the game.

The rematch a few weeks later was named 'Bounty Bowl II' and CBS even had the hype as part of the pre-game show with wanted posters of the players who supposedly had bounties placed on them. Can't imagine that would fly now.

Article by Eric Gray

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