Saints Bounty Program: Senate Hearing Is Bad News for NFL

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches his team before they take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As if the NFL didn't have enough problems to deal with, the news that Congress is going to investigate the New Orleans Saints bounty program gives Roger Goodell yet another reason to go haywire. 

Senator Dick Durbin announced on Thursday that he would be holding a Judiciary Committee hearing about the bounty problem in the NFL. 

“A spirit of aggressiveness and competitiveness is an integral part of many sporting contests, but bribing players to intentionally hurt their opponents cannot be tolerated. We have to put an end to this.”

“We will have a hearing and put on the record what sports leagues and teams at the professional and collegiate levels are doing to make sure that there’s no place in athletics for these pay-to-maim bounties. I want to hear the policies and practices in each of the major sports and collegiate sports that are being put in place and have one explore whether federal legislation is required.”

On the plus side, the NFL did issue a mandate to all of its teams about bounties, so that is something that Commissioner Goodell can give to Congress if he is asked to speak on the situation. 

Still, the fact that Congress is going to dive deeper into this issue is a headache the NFL can't afford right now. 

It doesn't help the league's case that former players have come out and said that every team at one point or another has had a bounty program. 

Former Saint Joe Horn says EVERY NFL team has a program like the Saints bounty program. Says in KC and ATL players were paid for cart offs.

— Lee Zurik (@LeeZurik) March 21, 2012

Once Congress gets a hold of that information—if it doesn't already have it—the possibilities for punishment and fines will be even greater. 

There is nothing that Commissioner Goodell or anyone else will be able to say to defend the actions of teams around league. The suspensions levied against the Saints for their program could end up being the tip of the iceberg.