Saints dished it out; Now they'll have to take it

storapse@aol.comMarch 8, 2012 

This week's sports scandal is unlike any of the recent disgraceful incidents we've been reading about for the past year or so.

We don't have to ponder whether an arbitrator was right in casting the deciding vote that permitted Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun to escape a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

We don't have to wait until a jury determines the guilt or innocence of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky in a child sex abuse trial in May.

No need to guess how much Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim knew about assistant Bernie Fine's relationship with young boys, or if the head coach knowingly permitted former basketball players to compete after they tested positive for banned substances.

With the New Orleans Saints scandal, there is no question the team conducted an illegal bounty program for a period that included their Super Bowl-winning season in 2009.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has confessed he supervised the program that rewarded players for, among other things, attempting to knock star quarterbacks out of games. And New Orleans head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have admitted they not only knew what was going on, but endorsed Williams' methods.

It has been reported that the NFL has a 50,000 page report on the investigation.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated says he saw a confidential four-page memo that was sent to all 32 teams in the league detailing the abuses.

"At times, players both pledged significant amounts and targeted particular players," the report said. "For example, prior to a Saints playoff game in January 2010, defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked Minnesota QB Brett Favre out of the game."

Film clips being shown this week on ESPN confirm that Favre was the victim of several illegal hits in that game (some flagged, some not). By the way, the Saints won the game in overtime, 31-28, as Favre struggled to stay on the field.

Are the Saints the only team that has offered bounties on opposing players?

Of course not, but my guess is the practice will end when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gets finished slapping the Saints with severe penalties.

There is some some precedent that dates back 50 years. In 1962, Detroit's Alex Karas and Green Bay's Paul Hornung were suspended for a year for gambling on NFL games.

I can't believe that Williams, and perhaps GM Loomis, will get less. Payton and Vilma also should be hit with lengthy suspensions. Plus, New Orleans certainly will lose some draft choices.

There is a lot at stake here for Goodell. For some time he has been trying to make the game safer from things like concussion injuries by coming down hard on defenders who make illegal or late hits.

Bounty hunting certainly falls into that category.

Unlike his counterpart in baseball, Bud Selig, Goodell does not have a history of favoring his club-owner buddies. Goodell has dealt severe penalties in recent years for infractions by two teams -- New England and Pittsburgh -- owned by his two best allies, Robert Kraft of the Patriots and Dan Rooney of the Steelers.

Come to think of it, maybe that has something to do with why the baseball owners pay Selig $22 million, twice as much as the NFL owners pay Goodell.

One or the other is either over-paid or under-paid. Guess who.

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