Saints and sinners: Players feel the wrath of Goodell
Today, NFL-fuehrer Roger Goodell once again brought down the hammer on the New Orleans Saints.
Four players involved in “Bounty-gate” have been suspended without pay for what the league has termed “conduct detrimental to the game.”
The wraith of Goodell will be felt most by middle-linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is suspended immediately for the entire duration of the 2012 season.
The others facing punishment include: defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (now of the Packers) for eight games, defensive end Will Smith for four and linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) for three.
This punishment was expected, but is it just?
Most of the information on which Goodell based his decisions is hearsay. The NFLPA attempted to meet with Goodell and conduct it’s own investigation. They did get a meeting, but the league refused to disclose their information including their sources. They also had no say in the process.
The NFLPA will appeal the punishment, but this is not expected to accomplish anything, as the appeal will be heard by Goodell (who levied the original punishment). Goodell has already said that players saying that they were just following orders cannot be used as a defense. Goodell has also traditionally turned a deaf ear to appeals.
Still the Players Association have to appeal. They have to stand up for their players. Goodell has once again tightened the stranglehold he has over the league, and something needs to be done.
Legal action is a definite possibility, and may be the proper course of action. It would be sad to see the NFLPA enter back in to litigation with the league, but Goodell has too much power and needs to be stopped.
I agree that punishment needed to come, but I have different rationale. My issue is monetary. Receiving money from the Saint’s organization outside the confines of a contract is unacceptable. Players can earn bonuses but the bounty payments aren’t accounted for.
Also, I understand the concern for player safety. At the same time, football is a game whose very foundations is predicated upon violence. As soon as the ball is snapped, violence is necessary. Collision after collision, that is the way the game is played. That is football.
Roger Goodell does not seem to understand that. The protection that he has allotted to quarterbacks (except Tim Tebow) and receivers is excessive to say the least. Defensive players have been groomed, trained and rewarded for how tough they are and how hard they hit. Now they are being condemned for it. This is tearing away at the very fabric of the game, turning it in to a pass-happy travesty.
These outrageous penalties have also drawn the ire of the league’s players. Running back Reggie Bush, stated the league would not be able to find one player who agrees with the punishment. Even Kurt Warner, who was targeted in a bounty, disagreed with the punishment saying simply “WOW!”
Part of the reason for these punishments, as stated by the league was that these players were not only the leaders of the bounty program, but helped to develop it. This is ludicrous, as Greg Williams had similar programs in both Washington and Buffalo. The coaching staff has the player’s jobs in his hands, if they don’t listen they don’t play. Former Saint Darren Sharper stated that they were never made aware the league was looking into the program, nor were they informed they were told to stop.
He also said he would “go out and try to hit people as hard as he can, regardless if their were incentives or not.”
The team did not receive an excessive amount of unnecessary roughness calls or personal fouls. They way they played the game was the same as the other 31 teams. Yet now they are being punished for what they are programmed to do.
My final issue is I think that the league has a responsibility for transparency. If they have hard evidence against the Saints, they should release it to the NFLPA and the public. The way in which Vilma found out about his suspension was watching Sportscenter. The fans drive the business of the NFL, the players are what drive the fans’ enthusiasm, yet are being left out in the cold. Hearsay would never hold up in court. Neither would anonymous sources. Circumstantial evidence (like the audio tape released) isn’t very concrete either. If there was any due process, the outcome may be different.
But this is the NFL. There is no arbitrator. There is no VP of Player Safety. There is no due process. There is just Commissioner Roger Goodell.
With that, there is a big problem.
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