Roger Goodell isn’t the most popular person among NFL players these days, but not everyone are against his severe punishments in the Bounty-Gate Scandal, with Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals supporting Goodell’s cause in suspending the four New Orleans Saints players.
Don’t be fooled. There’s a lot of Offensive players – Defensive players mentality to this whole debate, but there is more to it. It’s about the culture of coaching in the league, and about Goodell being the punishing hand and the man who handles the appeals as well. Fitzgerald isn’t the first player to step up for Goodell, saying he was right with his choices, suspending Jonathan Vilma (one season), Will Smith (four games), Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Scott Fujita (three games).
I’ve known Jonathan Vilma for a very long time, and Will Smith actually hosted me on my visit to Ohio State in college. So I’ve known these guys for a really long time and they’re not bad men by any stretch of the imagination.
I feel bad that they’re losing game checks and losing the opportunity to make a living. But I think Roger Goodell, our commissioner, had to do something to let everybody know that this is not going to be tolerated, and moving forward this is not something that’s going to be acceptable.
Eli Manning also spoke recently about finding Goodell making the right decision in the matter. But hitting on the coaching staff is one thing. The suspensions to the players seem like too much of an aftershock, of a man a bit too drunk on power, going a bit too far in his crusade to solidify player safety in the league.
The money, it’s about the money as well. The NFL is facing over 1000 lawsuits regarding player safety and lingering conditions of players years out of the league. Goodell is trying to avoid each and every one of those allegations, while meanwhile hitting out at every player who does or appear to be doing something even slightly violent. Finding it hard to tell the difference in the NFL between clean hits and a dirty play? You’re not the only one.
But if Goodell thinks that suspending these players and taking away their livelihood will make this league a better and safer place, I think he’ll find to be very wrong. Do defensive coordinators tell their players to go out and do well, hit cleanly but make sure they don’t hurt anyone? I doubt that. Maybe they won’t run a pool on hurting players, but don’t expect any soft hitting in the near future. This is the sport, and these are its risks.
A stand was taken, against the right men – The coaching staff. Gregg Williams won’t coach again in the NFL at any capacity. Sean Payton is out for a year, and the Saints have more problems in money damages and lost draft picks. But going after the players in such a way won’t guarantee safety or promise this doesn’t happen again. As long as this sport exists, there will be hard hits, intentional hits, and injuries.
Punishing the players for doing what they’ve been taught to do from their first day on the football field won’t make things better. It just makes Goodell look like more of a hypocrite when he says he’s for the players and is out for their best interests. All he seems to care about is making the lawsuits go away, while making a few extra bucks by fining players more harshly than they deserve.