NFL Bounties: Brett Favre, Charles Barkley, Eli Manning and More Speak out
With the New Orleans Saints embroiled in a bounty scandal with the NFL, players and analysts in all sports have taken the time to weigh in on the controversy.
In case you haven't heard, the league went over nearly 18,000 documents that included 50,000 pages of information about the bounty program.
The backlash against the Saints has been loud, as you would expect. If players are deliberately trying to injure someone, then you want them to be punished accordingly.
Not everyone has been vehemently against the Saints, though they are not defending the idea of hurting a player. There are a lot of layers to peel back when looking at this whole situation, and we will have the best of the best from everyone around the sports world.
Here is a look at what others are saying about the NFL bounty system and its effect on the game, players and other sports.
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Brett Favre is one of the players at the center of the investigation. Jonathan Vilma reportedly laid out a bounty for anyone that knocked the Minnesota Vikings quarterback from the NFC Championship Game in 2010.
Speaking to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Favre didn't really think anything of it. He said that he thought there should have been more flags thrown, but he doesn't put any of the players in a negative light.
It's football. I don't think anything less of those guys. I would have loved to play with Vilma. Hell of a player. I've got a lot of respect for Gregg Williams. He's a great coach. I'm not going to make a big deal about it. In all honesty, there's a bounty of some kind on you on every play. Now, in that game there were some plays that, I don't want to say were odd, but I'd throw the ball and whack, on every play. Hand it off, whack. Over and over. Some were so blatant. I hand the ball to Percy Harvin early and got drilled right in the chin. They flagged that one at least.
Our Take: Favre plays it coy with his comments. He kind of throws the Saints under the bus, but he does it in a way that doesn't get him in trouble with those players.
Perhaps he doesn't really think less of the Saints players. It was three years ago, so there is no sense in crying over something that can't be changed.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, Eli Manning joined the vocal majority by ripping into the Saints for the bounty program. He spoke to the New York Post about the situation, saying that this only hurts the game's reputation.
Obviously it is a big deal, what’s going on. It’s not good for football and can’t be a part of football. I know [commissioner] Roger Goodell will do a good job figuring all this out and making sure this doesn’t happen again.
Our Take: Trying to police bounty programs is going to be difficult, just because this kind of thing happens all the time. Players aren't necessarily trying to intentionally injure a player, but there are always going to be under-the-table deals going on.
Give Manning credit for saying the politically correct thing; it's a smart tactic. He wants to do everything to keep himself and his teammates safe.
This is basically a standard response that an active player has to give, or else the league will be keeping a closer eye on you and your team if you speak out against the investigation.
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Never one to shy away from an opinion, especially on a provocative topic, Charles Barkley offered up his thoughts on the Saints' situation and said that the issue is not confined to the NFL during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show.
When asked if his team ever had a bounty in the NBA, he said yeah. Obviously, he didn't offer up any names, but he said that when he was playing with Philadelphia, they were getting destroyed in a game, and a player for the other team was still shooting three-pointers and running up the score.
People are going to clearly overreact to the bounty thing. First of all, you have to be a punk to snitch that out..You don't bring that out X amount of years later. I've seen at least three or four well-known NFL players say all teams have bounties, so I'm glad they came to Gregg Williams' defense, because I'm pretty sure all teams do have that.
Our Take: Barkley is not likely going to make himself many fans with this comment, but give him credit for speaking honestly. He doesn't play in the NBA anymore, so there is not much at stake for him to speak out.
The part about every NFL team having a bounty program is where this whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense. It's impossible for the league to police this, because it takes a special circumstance to make this situation public knowledge.
Perhaps whatever fines and/or suspensions the league imposes on the Saints will curtail this whole thing, but even that might not have the desired effect.
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LaDainian Tomlinson had the most honest take of any active player besides Jonathan Vilma. He did an interview with 1090 Sports in San Diego when the topic shifted to the Saints and the infamous bounty program.
Well I think on certain teams you may have a defensive coordinator or a linebackers coach or whoever it may be to find a way to challenge their players and that’s just one way to try to get the best out of their players. Now I don’t know if there was ever a rule that said it couldn’t be done, but I am sure this is not the first time, trust me. This is not the first time this happened. It’s just now coming out that this type of stuff happened, but I’m not surprised at all. We’ll have to wait and see what the commissioner does as far as discipline, but in all honesty I mean I think it’s kind of part of the game. I mean to be honest with you I don’t think you can discipline them guys too much.
Our Take: It's nice that Tomlinson thinks that the Saints can't be disciplined too much, but Roger Goodell will likely disagree strongly with that sentiment when he does dish out the punishment.
The biggest thing that stands out is Tomlinson saying he didn't know if there was a rule about this. That is either ignorance on his part, or the league did not do a strong enough job letting the players know the policy.
Another thing that jumps out is Tomlinson's use of the phrase "trust me" when saying that this is not the first time. Some could read into that, like perhaps he knows a lot more about bounty programs than he lets on.
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Former Washington Redskins defensive back Fred Smoot, who played under Gregg Williams in 2004 and 2007, defended his former coach in an interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington.
Here is what Smoot said when asked about what Williams was like during their time together.
It was never like that. It was more or less we started a pot as a defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles, who could get the most interceptions. It was never a bounty. It was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime, Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, or do that, we did that ourselves as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays.
In addition to that, the Redskins came out and said that they rewarded players for big plays, not injuring anyone.
"If the game was on the line and we had to kick off," said Steve Jackson, a Redskins assistant coach for eight years before he was dismissed in January, "there would be players that would come into the special teams huddle and say, 'If you get a tackle inside the 20-yard line, hey, that's 500 bucks.' And they would do the same thing in practice and everything. It was just the culture. Players trying to get each other motivated."
Our Take: Smoot can't be sure of what happened with Williams when he left for New Orleans, but it is hard to imagine him changing his style just to reward players for taking out another player.
The Redskins were smart to come out defending themselves, so now, they don't have to face the kind of heat that the Saints are.
Whether it is going to change anyone's mind is up for debate, but everyone is in defensive mode right now.
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During his weekly appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike In the Morning show, Dick Vitale went off on the Saints and Gregg Williams.
...When you put a dollar-figure on having someone carted off the field, and maybe paralyzed, or you put a figure out there for hurting someone and putting them out of a game, that's sick. That's criminal. Gregg Williams should be banned from coaching, absolutely banned...I am sick to believe that you have to motivate someone by putting a dollar figure on it.
Our Take: This is an overreaction. Should players and coaches be fined and/or suspended for their role in the bounty program? Yes. But in the middle of an NFL game, players are focusing on what they have to do in order to win a game, not collect on a bounty.
Williams is going to be punished accordingly, but the odds of him getting banned from the NFL appear to be slim.
Bounties are sick and disgusting, but these players aren't going out there trying to end a player's livelihood or ruin their career. From afar, it appears that this was just a way to get them to give a little more when the game was going on.
If the effort isn't there to begin with, then these players shouldn't be in the NFL. If you have to be motivated with a little cash on the side, that is a bigger issue than actually hearing there is a bounty program going on.