January 1, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (99) prior to kickoff of a game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Why NFL Bounty Hunters Will Get Off the Hook


Dog Chapman. Boba Fett. Jonathan Vilma.

The NFL will come down hard on Gregg Williams but should come down equally as hard on the actual thugs that sought after the bounties. (Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

When I thought of bounty hunters in the past I would either think of a badass in green armor or a leather suited guy who thinks he’s a badass. But now, after the news that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty hunting system in place that rewarded players for devastation hits, I have to think of those gold helmets.

Now I’m not opposed to hard hits and rough plays. It’s football after all, not tennis. But the line begins to get drawn when you have a rewards system in place that gives bonuses to players who in their careers, try to end others.

Before I get started, let’s calm down with the ‘they ended careers’ talk like just mentioned. The Saints blasted two over the hill, back for one more hoorah quarterbacks into retirement. They didn’t cripple Ray Rice or decapitate Mike Williams.

But they did get paid to basically beat the old man at the bus stop to death with his own cane.

That’s where the morals begin to enter the picture and that’s why this is wrong. Saints fans can defend it as hard hitting football but it would be different if they actually had a good defense that didn’t allow on what seemed like at least 24 points a game. The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers had stout defenses that were just as rough and tough but they only got paid what was in their contracts to be that way.

Their motivation to knock a guy out of the game was championship centered, not motivated by the thoughts of the goodies they could add on to their next Bentley.

But the saddest fact of all is that only one man will be punished. And as rightfully so as he should pay the price for the crime he committed, the perps that carried out the acts should receive an equal punishment.

When a mob family goes down, the Feds want to get the head of the family but they don’t just gloss over the minions and henchmen that make up the middlemen.

The same case should be made here. The Saints were basically the Corleone family and as much as the fans want to romanticize the acts as just football, the fact still remains that Micheal Corleone was vicious criminal and his family wore his scares.

Fredo paid. Sonny paid. Vitto paid. Even Micheal’s daughter paid the price of his greed and filth.

Gregg Williams deserves harsh punishment and he will get it, especially since Roger Goodell has made it his business to make his legacy all about player safety. This is the worst kind of crime that can be committed within the NFL to offend Goodell’s stance.

But while Williams serves out a fierce suspension and pays the hefty fine he will face, the players who actually body slammed Kurt Warner and actually sought after Brett Favre’s grandfather-like brittle ankles should face the same punishment.

This isn’t the Godfather, it’s not romantic. Sentences should be carried out Goodfellas style, violently and honestly.

If the investigation is as through as the NFL claims it is, then they have the names and exact bonuses paid out to those players for the hits they carried out.

But the parallels to real world crime families probably runs this deep too as if the Saints were any smart, they’d have shredded those documents or just made the payments under the table.

But if there is enough evidence to bust Williams, there must be enough to follow the trail of blood back to the hitmen who created the problem. Williams will leap in front of every bullet he can, that’s just the kind of coach he is. After all his mob mentality isn’t a terrible way to run a defense. All of his defense’s have ben a brotherhood on and off the field. When Sean Taylor died in 2005, it was Williams who crated the missing man formation.

In fact, Williams still has a coin from Taylor he keeps in his pocket to this day, and rubs it for luck in big game situations.

So Williams isn’t going to serve up his guys — the mob family analogy ends there.

But where it picks right back up is there is more people responsible to this then just Williams, a fact getting glossed over. Williams didn’t hit anybody, he didn’t knock anyone out of the league, he just named the price to get it done.

There is an equal amount of blood on the hands of the scummy human being who would accept a pay bump to take out someone else. It’s although they reverted back to a high school state of mind where it was cool to seek out someone and slam them into a locker for the reward of a high five.

This time the stakes were just higher on both sides. It really makes you review a lot of what the Saints have done. It puts a different spin on Roman Harper sucker punching Steve Smith in Carolina. It makes you wonder about every hard hit that made you go “Ooooh” and applaud it as a hard hit.

It makes the Detroit Lions look less like thugs.

But more importantly — and perhaps most devastating —  it severely dents the credibility and the respect for Sean Payton. Before this he was viewed as generally likable guy and he most likely will be after this. But it will be the type of situation where you smile, shake hands and nod in front of him, but as soon as he turns his back, you whisper with your hand covering your mouth to the person next to you.

He’s tainted, he allowed this to happen and being the head coach and the supposed control man of the team, he deserves punishment too. He could have said no, suspended or even fired Williams for this. But that would have thrown off team chemistry, split the locker room between Sean’s guys and Gregg’s guys and that doesn’t win a Super Bowl.

And that’s why he didn’t do it. If you bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen, that’s nothing more then a really poor alibi at the end of the day.

But Williams will be the fall guy for all of this and the gauntlet won’t go as deep into the Saints as it should. In fact, they won’t even be paying for this — the St. Louis Rams will be. The Saints have another fine defensive coordinator and they will turn their backs to this and ‘just focus on football’.

That’s the worst part of this all. Just like a mob family, just one guy is being fed to the fishes while the rest of the guys pretend like they don’t know anything.

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