Full disclosure (In case the blog name didn't tip you off): I am a lifelong Saints fan.
I'm talking today about the so-called "BountyGate". The NFL is looking into the Saints "Pay for performance" pool. Not sure where the term "bounty" got thrown in but it seems to be inescapable now. The NFL was first alerted to it in 2010 after the Saints-Vikings NFC Championship game. At the time, ESPN's Kevin Seifert said that game was "easily the most dramatic and hard-fought game I’ve ever seen in person". Unfortunately, I didn't see the game in person but I was wrung dry afterward. Give both teams credit for that epic contest. It is one of my greatest memories.
Now, the Peter Kings and Mike Florios of the sports world want to taint that memory. The game was played in front of a full NFL officiating crew, a sellout crowd, and a huge television audience. It was reviewed later by the NFL. Flags were thrown and fines were issued. The game is over. The Saints won. My memory will always be a happy one.
A lot of people were not pleased by that outcome, though. Some of them, most notably Peter King and Mike Florio, even whined so loud that the overtime rules were changed. One other thing about that game: It was fairly obvious to just about everyone that the Saints were going after Brett Favre. Everyone except Brad Childress. Why didn't the Vikings adjust? Why didn't they leave Visanthe Shiancoe or Chester Taylor in to block? It was obvious the Saints defensive line was mauling the Vikings offensive line. Bottom line: The responsibility to protect Brett Favre belongs to the Vikings, not the officials and not the league.
So the league has some information sometime after that game that the Saints were running a "Pay For Performance" pool in violation of league rules. The NFL told them to knock it off. They didn't and, for that, they should be punished. No problem here about that.
Here's my problem: What the Saints do in their locker room is not much different than what every other team in the NFL does. I'm not remotely fashioning a "everyone does it" defense of the Saints. What I'm saying is they all say things in the locker rooms, in the meeting rooms, and on the field that are overblown and exaggerated to fire themselves up. People are getting hung up on the terms "cart offs" and "knockouts" but those are just words. In football, we regularly say this guy "blew up" or "destroyed" that guy. Or "kayoes" as Peter King states below? What difference does it make to the kayoed player as long as the hit was clean? I think we should punish the deed, not the words.
Last week, former 49er Bill Romanowski went on TV in the Bay Area and advocated that the Niners knock out one of the Saints. Maybe Niners safety Donte Whitner heard. He kayoed Pierre Thomas with a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit -- legal because Thomas is a back, not a quarterback, and wasn't defenseless -- setting the stage for big Niner blasts on the Saints all game.
No mention of intent to injure from Peter King? That hit knocked Thomas out of the game and caused him to fumble. Was Whitner in the scrum for the loose ball? No, he was walking toward his sideline with his hands raised in exultation at what he had done. Does it really matter what his intent or motivation was? Could it have been any more clear? Would it have mattered if he pocketed another $100 from his locker room pool? To whom? Where was your moral outrage then, Mr King?
The Saints deserve punishment but Roger Goodell doesn't have the courage to give the right punishment for this infraction. He will yield to the howling pack and hand down an excessive one.
But then he, King, and Florio should go after the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants for targeting a player (Kyle Williams), who has a history of concussions. I'll get them started.
"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him out of the game,” said Jacquian Williams, who forced the second fumble, in overtime, to set up New York’s game-winning field goal.