We all know football - especially the kind of football played in the NFL - is a tough, violent and potentially dangerous sport. Every time a player steps on the field he runs the risk of serious injury, even from a fair hit. The idea that a team would set out to deliberately injure an opposing player, that a coach would dole out bounties to players who delivered the hits, is disgusting and unconscionable.
So National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is entirely justified in throwing the book at the New Orleans Saints, who had such a bounty program going for three years. Head Coach Sean Payton is suspended for the season and loses his $7.5 million salary. The Saints lose second round draft picks this year and next year, and will pay a $500,000 fine. The assistant coach who ran the bounty program, now with St. Louis, is suspended indefinitely from the NFL. Another coach will be suspended six games.
Notice has been served to everyone in the NFL that deliberately setting out to injure another player will not be tolerated.
Professional football is, without doubt, America's favorite sport. We love the athleticism, the speed and, yes, the crunching hits. But there is plenty of room for that within the limits of fair play.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was quoted Thursday as saying, "I need to hear an explanation for this punishment" of his coach.
Brees shouldn't need much of an explanation. He just has to think about himself, already playing with a target on his back, being subjected to cheap shots and late hits by opposing players seeking not just to tackle him, but to hurt him and put him out of the game. The penalty then should be easy to understand.