This is a big story. But could you imagine how much bigger it would be if those evil Patriots were involved?
The Saints allegedly managed a pool of cash up to $50,000 and rewarded defensive players for inflicting injuries on opponents. Knocking out an opposing player was worth a $1,500 bonus. A "cart-off" was worth $1,000.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams oversaw the fund - with the knowledge of head coach Sean Payton - back in 2009 when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The amount of the bonuses is low for pro athletes, but it's still unauthorized compensation that goes beyond the salary cap. And that's against the rules. No asterisks for the 2009 Championship necessary, but the Saints should be severely punished for running such a fund.
The nature of the bonuses is kind of sickening. Cart-offs? Does a player get a new car for ending a QBs career? Then again, it's a violent sport. People don't hit each other with the intent of NOT hurting each other.
Still, the whole knockout and cart-off thing means players are encouraged to go for the head and legs. The NFL has gotten serious about injuries from those kinds of hits and this is their chance to fully demonstrate that seriousness.
It's horrible for PR. The NFL suspends so many players, fines them so often for dirty hits. They can't let programs like these continue now that they've been unearthed. And the fact that the head coach knew about it is all the more damning.
The problem isn't localized to New Orleans. And I'd be utterly stunned if there is a franchise in the NFL that has never had such an informal Pain Payment Program at one point in time.
It is a contact sport. Injuries happen. But ultimately injuries should be viewed as part of the game, not the goal of the game.