Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Game Isn't Played That Way Anymore*

From across the country, NFL players rallied around the four Saints that were suspended yesterday. The players felt as though Vilma, Hargrove, Smith, and Fujita were being punished for "playing football." That trying to hurt an opponent was "part of the game."

Not anymore.

That's what the players and some fans don't seem to get. The NFL is trying to get rid of that part of the game.

The scandalous part of this scandal was the money. Pay-to-injure. The Saints coaches and players like Vilma paid cash to players for injuring opponents. Which is a salary cap violation. And it also goes against what the NFL has been trying to do in order to limit injuries.

And I know Goodell and the owners are concerned about the safety of their money more than the safety of the players. I know Goodell is an autocrat, a king operating without restrictions. But that's what his position requires.

Everyone in the NFL is concerned about money. Players hold out for money. Players switch teams for money. Neither the owners or the players can use the greed argument against the other. They're all greedy. We're all greedy.

The NFL wants to protect their investment. They invest in the players and invest in the game. The League wants the game to be as hard-hitting and as safe as possible. It's a tenuous balancing act. The NHL is struggling with a similar problem. The NHL wants the game to be as fast and physical as possible, but they don't want to see players carted off the ice with their heads in neckboards. Both leagues want the game exciting so fans watch, but not so violent that they turn away.

The Saints' bounty program unbalanced what the NFL is trying to produce. The Saints' bounty program was purely about hard hits and injuries. The NFL can't allow that.

Vilma, Hargrove, Smith, and Fujita helped Gregg Williams and Sean Payton set up this bounty program. And before this off-season, such a program might have seemed to be part of the way football has always been played.

But it isn't how the game will be played anymore.

Enough of this Saints stuff. I'm going to take Bills' linebacker Kirk Morrison's advice:

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