04 March 2012

NFL Player Safety

Gregg Williams is in a lot of trouble. News broke about a "bounty system" in which Williams would pay his players for wicked hits on opposing players while he was the Defensive Coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. That was in and of itself a bug story. Now, reports are coming out that as the NFL is investigating, they are finding that the Redskins had a similar system while Williams was the D-Co there and the Buffalo Bills while he was the head coach. While the system goes against what the NFL is trying to do in terms of keeping the players safe, and Williams is looking like the scapegoat, I don't know that Williams is the only one who should be looked upon for punishment.

Let us just assume that leakers and reporters are right and the bounty system reports are true. Just because a coach puts that on the table, the players are the ones reaponsible for what happens on the field. The players are grown men who make plenty of money. I understand that the playing lifespan is short, but, even the lowest paid players on the team still make 3, 4, 5 hundred thousand dollars a year, plus food, hotels, travel, endorsements, health insurance and more. An extra $1,000 for a painful hit, $1,500 to hurt someone else and whatever else was involved? That doesn't seem to me like it should be that big of an incentive. The NFL has made illegal many hits that make NFL history so fun. Defensive players can barely do much more than play touch football any more. Pass Interference, Horse Collar tackles, hits on a defensless receiver, and other calls that 25 years ago would have been laughed out of the competition committee room are now common place. Why? The NFL wants to protect its most valuable asset, the players. No one disagrees that career ending injuries are no good for anyone. They are bad for teams, fans, individual players and the NFL. Most people agree that dirty hits are bad for the game.

However, with all the money that the NFL has spent trying to keep players safe, doesn't it all seem like a waste when the players ignore the work done? If a player can be bought for $1,000, and ignores the rules put in place to protect him, then what is the point of the NFL stepping in. It seems like the players don't want to be kept safe if they can be bought for such a miniscule amount. Former players, hall of famers, have been fighting for years to get some retroactive help becuse the NFL didn't protect them. Current players, obviously, don't see the former players that can barely walk because of the back and knee injuries suffered in the 60s and 70s. Current players must not respect the sacrifice of former players that has led to the player safety rules of today.

How many times have we all heard the cliche phrase, "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." In the Army, there are so many rules and regulations that are in place because someone in the past didn't use common sense. That is the same reason why the player safety rules are in place. It seems though, that current players don't care about their own safety. That is something that, as a fan, I respect. However, purposely aiming to knock out a colleague, that is as despicable as a friendly fire accident. If Williams were to say, "knock Jason Witten out of the game or else you don't have a job next week," okay then I would put the burden completely on Williams. But for a player to put a colleague's career in jeopardy for $1,500 bucks? That becomes the responsibility of the player. If a measely sum can buy your integrity, that's on you. No amount of money could coerce me to sell secrets to an enemy. If I did that, it would put my colleagues in jeopardy. I don't care that player A plays for the Saints and player B plays for the Colts, both players play in the NFL. To put a colleague in jeopardy is the most attrocious workplace crime.

This is a huge black eye on the NFL. If the NFL wanted to, they could bring in OSHA investigators, the IRS, and many other things that could make life for the players and coaches intollerable. Unless the NFL takes drastic measures, it will be hard to take player safety policies seriously. Williams and the players involved share responsibility. If the NFL doesn't take drastic measures and hand out serious punishment, then they too, are equally responsible.

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