Ray Lewis tackling a 49er
Football is a contact sport. The main goal for a defender is to tackle the ball carrier. From youth leagues to the NFL, players are taught to put fear into the hearts of their opponents by hitting them with extreme force. However, this idea is taken too far at times, usually when people like James Harrison and Ndamukong Suh are on the field. Recently, a bigger controversy has been discovered. Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, formerly of the Saints and Redskins, has been accused of awarding money to players for 'taking out' other players.
Terrelle Pryor's helmet while at Ohio State
When I first heard of these allegations, I figured there were two different ways Williams could have went about putting out these 'bounties'. The first, paying out money for big, legal hits. Rewarding players for playing by the rules is something that is done at all levels of the game. While playing youth football, I once won tickets to a Washington Redskins game for being the hardest hitting player in practice over the course of a week. In college football, Ohio State University is known for putting lots of stars on the helmets of their top players. In the NFL, ESPN segments such as 'Jacked Up' have been used to highlight the hardest hits of the week. As long as Gregg Williams has not told his players to go against the rules of the game, I don't see anything wrong with what he has been promoting.
Bronco's player being taken off field on stretcher
On the other hand, this 'bounty program' could have been providing money for purposefully injuring other players. Football, while it is a game of violence, is also a game of integrity. Unnecessary head hunting or attacking knees goes against the unwritten rules of the game. Smaller guys go low because they are at a disadvantage. Offensive players that lower their heads are destined for helmet to helmet contact. Other than those specific cases, it is generally seen as a cheap shot to go for knees and helmets. Guys like Rodney Harrison are voted league's dirtiest player for their violent hitting styles. There is no room in the NFL for intentional breaking of rules, and if that is what Williams is promoting, he should be out of the league forever.
Recently, the world has began a new safety initiative. From high school to the pros, concussion awareness signs are being posted. There is medical proof that head injuries lead to concussion syndromes and Lou Gehrig's Disease. Austin Collie suffered 3 concussions in 9 games in 2010-11, Johnny Knox broke his back trying to pick up a fumble this past season, and this is Gregg Williams' idea on an incentive program? Rodger Goodell needs to come down hard on the entire Saints Organization, look into Williams' years with the Redskins, and suspend him from the league indefinitely.