Adrian Peterson’s torn ACL/MCL will be go down as the capstone to one of the worst seasons in Vikings franchise history. Time will tell how much that particular play will affect the franchise for years to come depending on how closely Peterson returns to his old form.
But with the recent revelations of Gregg Williams’ bounty program with the Saints, one has to worry how many teams, coaches and players condone this sort of thing in the NFL every day. Even more so, how many of the NFL’s best talents, like Peterson, have fallen victim to a bounty hit.
We all know Chris Kluwe’s thoughts on the matter, but it seems he’s in the minority. Many of the NFL’s former players have come out and spoken publically of the acceptance of bounty programs. One of those players, Alan Faneca, former All-Pro guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wasn’t surprised to hear the news.
“It’s a violent game we play. Whether people want to think about it or not, part of the game is to exert physical dominance over your opponent,” Faneca said via the Associated Press. “If it results in a guy not finishing the game, then that’s what happened in the course of playing the game.”
Kurt Warner, former two-time MVP quarterback and victim of the Saints bounty program, seemed to shrug it off.
“I think you’re crazy if you think that there weren’t defensive linemen that sat at their locker before the game, saying, ‘Hey, I’m buying dinner if we knock somebody out first,'” said Warner. “Those kind of things have been around our game for a long time.”
A number of current players took to Twitter to give their perspective on bounties and the feelings were similar.
“Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever,” tweeted Shawne Merriman, who maintains that he was targeted and sustained a career-altering injury.
“It’s a league thing,” Falcons wide receiver Roddy White tweeted. “But it’s about to end because of the Saints story.”
In the most infamous game in recent memory for Vikings fans, a bounty was reportedly put on Brett Favre.
“In the week of the NFC Championship Game,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on NFL Live Friday. “Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma put $10,000 in cash on a table and said, ‘this goes to the guy that knocks out Brett Favre.'”
But even Favre, who was hit so maliciously that day, says bounties are okay.
“I’m not pissed. It’s football,” Favre told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. “I don’t think anything less of those guys. Said or unsaid, guys do it anyway. If they can drill you and get you out, they will.”
The NFL has just scratched the surface of this bounty issue. By the sound of it, it’s a widely accepted and often used tool for NFL teams. But how often is it used? Does every great, game-changing NFL player have a bounty on his head?
What about the Lawrence Taylor hit that ended Joe Theismann’s career? After all these years, he doesn’t sound too upset about it. “In a sick way, I guess it’s flattering,” Theismann told the Associated Press. “If you had a bounty on you, you were a pretty good player and they wanted to get rid of you.”
How about the low hit by Bernard Pollard on Tom Brady in week one of the 2008 season, the year after the Patriots went 18-1? There is no reason to believe that the Chiefs didn’t have a little quarterback envy and decide to try to knock the Patriots down a peg.
We all vividly remember the hit that finally brought down Adrian Peterson. He got hit low, but if you don’t go low on AD, he just runs all over you, right William Gay? Before this, it had never crossed my mind. But why wouldn’t the Redskins have had a bounty on the game’s best running back?
“It’s just one of those things that you wonder about, but now that you know it actually happens, it’s just inexcusable,” Peterson said via Twincities.com. “Hopefully, teams will think twice about something like this. Players have families to provide for.”
This is a skeleton in the NFL’s closet that was never meant to get out and a huge blow to the “player safety” babble that spews out of Roger Goodell. The Saints organization, coaches and players are in line to get severely punished for their actions, but considering how long it took the NFL to catch a team using what seems to be (by NFL standards) a perfectly normal and accepted form of performance incentives, We cannot possibly believe bounty programs will be discontinuing anytime soon.