By Charles Hallman
Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has allegedly concocted a “headhunting” system for his defensive players: $1,000 if a player was carried off the field on a stretcher after a hit; $1,500 if a player just got hurt and left the game unable to play.
Former NFL player Jack Brewer, who played on four NFL teams, including Minnesota, told the MSR Monday that the New Orleans bounty scheme was a well-known secret. “It’s nothing new — it’s always been there,” he recalls, vividly remembering what happened to then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game. Allegedly there was a $10,000 price on his head if someone took him out.
If you recall, the host Saints treated Favre like a Timex watch that day; he took a bad licking and barely kept ticking as the Vikings lost in overtime to New Orleans.
“I don’t think it’s right to put a price tag on what you do,” says Los Angeles Clippers forward Ryan Gomes, whose team was in town Monday and played the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I should have stopped it,” said Williams in a statement last weekend. “It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. I am truly sorry… I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.”
Williams’ apology, many are afraid, might be nothing more than a Carole King moment: “It’s too late.” He reportedly have been doing this as early as 2001 as head coach at Buffalo, then as defensive coordinator in Washington (2004-2007). He is now the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator.
“The way he left himself open to be caught, he left a trail,” BlackSportsOnline President and CEO Robert Littal says of Williams. “He has been doing something that probably has been done throughout the history of the NFL. A lot of [teams] are doing it, but not everyone gets caught.”
Brewer concurs, “You have some teams [who are] dirtier than others. You have classier organizations, but you have some organizations that are second class.”
And if all reports prove true, at least one team has gutter-like class.
“Whenever you work all of your life to make it to that level,” continues Brewer, who played college ball at the University of Minnesota, “and to have people violate the rules and put your career, and your family in jeopardy, I think it’s going too far. Over the last three years, I watched the Saints be one of the dirtiest teams in the league. You can name game after game where you see violent hits after the whistle.”
With the 2012 NFL Draft right around the corner, this “pay-for-pain” nonsense has given the image-conscious league a black eye at the moment.
“You can’t have it out there that people are trying to take cheap shots or intentionally injure a player for sums of money,” says Littal. “That opens up a Pandora’s box of a lot of different things.”
“I don’t think he was the only one,” he says of Williams, “or [the Saints] the only team that ever done this, but because they got caught, you commit the crime, you have to pay the punishment.”
“There needs to be a stiff punishment,” believes KFAN host Henry Lake.
Although it’s highly unlikely that the NFL will ask the Saints to return its 2009 Super Bowl trophy, do expect the team to get heavily punished — big fines and draft picks stripped, for example.
As for Williams, what he allegedly did is far worse than betting on games — he encouraged players to be hit men with pads for off-the-books money. Being banned from coaching for life might not be harsh enough.
As for any player who allegedly became bounty hunters, what they did is far worse than a player taking steroids. Each one who did it should be banned from football as well.
“I don’t feel sorry for them,” admits Littal.
When asked could something similar occur in his league, the NBA, “Oh, no!” Gomes quickly responded, pointing to hard fouls that’s commonplace in games but not to the point of putting someone out of the game.
Who blew the whistle?
“I think it was a former player or former coach,” surmises Littal. “Maybe someone who doesn’t have the greatest relationship with Gregg Williams, or a head coach who has been coaching in the league for a while. Maybe he burned some bridges, or maybe he was so brazen and obvious with it that it was out there for everyone to see. I do believe it was someone who got the ball rolling.
“The NFL has CIA-type investigators, and once they start looking [into it], everything starts coming out,” concludes Littal. “I think players and coaches [were] trying to protect themselves and snitched on everything to save their own skin.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.