Let’s be honest the “New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal” has come to be one of the most overly publicized, yet central topics, in the NFL over the last year (only surpassed by the question of Peyton Manning’s arm strength and the fascination with the Tebow bow). Oh, maybe you have been living under a rock for the last year so let me quickly summarize. The situation which is now known as the “New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal” began when Jonathan Vilma, the New Orleans Saint’s starting middle linebacker and defensive captain, allegedly offered $10,000 cash to anyone on the New Orleans Saint’s football team who “knocked” Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship. It is true that Brett Favre suffered a severe beating during that particular game and was even forced to leave the game with a lower leg injury. Coincidence? Maybe.
Would you expect the 2009 best defensive unit in the league to just allow Brett Favre to throw the football all over the field and crush their dreams of a Super Bowl XLVII title? I would say no. In fact, if I had near the athletic ability of a NFL player, I would do my best to “cut the head off of the ever threatening snake” that was the Minnesota Vikings offense led by Brett Favre. The opportunity to receive $10,000 for doing so (not injure but sack, hit, and hurry Favre as much as possible) would just be a bonus.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive-coordinator Gregg Williams, defensive-end Will Smith, and 27 other New Orleans Saint’s players were accused of “operating a pool” which paid out “bounties” for deliberately trying to knock opposing players out of the game. If you watched ESPN for even a minute during this investigation you would have known about the scandal, the commentators re-played and discussed the same facts every day during every segment of every show on ESPN. After a few weeks of investigation, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vilma for the entire season (with a few other players receiving minor suspensions) and colored the suspension under the flag of “player safety.”
Here is where the situation stopped being about “player safety” and seemingly became a crazed “he said she said” divorce battle. Vilma vehemently denied playing any part in a “bounty scandal” and brought a slander suit against Goodell. For various reasons (primarily the commerce clause), the case was brought in federal court where Vilma and seven witnesses from the Saints testified and two sworn affidavits were presented in front of a federal judge, claiming no wrong doing. Goodell on the other hand presented a sworn affidavit from former Saint’s defensive-coordinator Gregg Williams saying Vilma placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre. Through the use of social media outlets, Vilma said the NFL “bullied [Williams] to sign the affidavit.” The federal judge decided that Goodell overstepped his authority in suspending Vilma. Vilma’s suspension was overturned and he, along with all other suspended players, is reinstated for the entire 2012 season.
The fact is, this situation got completely overblown as football players are well aware of the inherent dangers of the sport when they step on the field. But yet, they choose to step on the field. Football is a dangerous and aggressive sport and players prepare their bodies accordingly. To protect the end zone, defensive players must play the game with more ferocity and aggressiveness than the offensive players and they do. Goodell is the NFL Commissioner and is therefore responsible for keeping the “players safe.” But I think it is the players who know best where the line between football ferocity and disregard for player safety is, and they should be able to determine their play. After all, football players consider themselves a fraternity and would (most likely) not willingly attempt to end the career of a brother.