21

March

Saints had Bounty on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints in last season's opening game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on the New Orleans Saints for paying bounties on opposing players. The punishment:

  • Indefinite suspension of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
  • One-year suspension of coach Sean Payton
  • Eight-game suspension of general manager Mickey Loomis
  • Six-game suspension of assistant-head coach Joe Vitt
  • A $500,000 franchise fine
  • Forfeiture of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013
  • Future discipline of individual players to be determined

The NFL also confirmed that the Saints had a bounty on Vikings QB Brett Favre in the NFC championship game and on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the 2011 season opener.

Here’s more on the Rodgers’ bounty:

“Further, prior to the Saints’ opening game in 2011, Coach Payton received an email from a close associate that stated in part, “PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers (sic).” When shown the email during the course of the investigation, Coach Payton stated that it referred to a “bounty” on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.”

Thanks to the Saints being docked a second-round pick, the Packers will move up one spot in the second round of this year’s draft, jumping from 60th overall to pick No. 59.

My only concern with the punishment is letting the Saints keep next year’s first-round pick. What if the absence of Payton and a few key injuries cause the Saints to have a season like the Colts just had and they end up with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013? I would’ve docked the Saint’s third- or fourth-round pick this year and taken away their first-rounder next year.

Also, if any Vikings fans whine too loudly about the beating Favre took in the NFC championship game, remind them that a bounty didn’t prevent Rodgers and the Packers from beating New Orleans last season.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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5

March

Monday Morning View: Bounties Have No Place in the NFL

If you’ve been away this weekend or cooped up in a hole to avoid the weather, you might have missed the big story that hit all the media outlets on Friday afternoon. I first found out through our friends at CheeseheadTV that the New Orleans Saints have been found guilty of offering bounties (or payouts) to defensive players as a performance incentive. It wasn’t only for interceptions or fumble recoveries, though. No, they were getting rewarded for injuring other players.

I, for one, found this appalling.

Now, I’m no fool. I am well aware that the rules of the league are often broken to gain a competitive advantage. And some people in the CheeseheadTV comments section feigned a sarcastic state of shock in light of this news.

But what really got to me were the comments and tweets around the internet that this is commonplace and not that big of a deal. The only reason it’s a huge story is because the Saints actually got caught. Some people likened it to the use of performances enhancing drugs (PEDs), in that it happens all the time, yet only a few are ever found out.

There was even an article penned by Matt Bowen for the Chicago Tribune, titled “Bounties part of game across the NFL.” In the article, Bowen shares his experience as a player who was coached by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the Washington Redskins. Daily player fines for breaking the rules or miscues during practice would be gathered and “stashed away at the team facility.”

Then, after the coaches reviewed the game film, the money would be handed back out for things like “big hits, clean hits by the rule book.” Extra cash was earned for interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles, and during the playoffs, the bounty rewards would increase.

“I ate it up,” admits Matt Bowen.

And really, who wouldn’t? Cash incentives for performance can be a big motivator. It is a classic case of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. (Sorry, it’s the teacher in me.) Behaviors are supported through positive and negative reinforcers, as well as positive and negative punishment. In this case, breaking the rules and mental errors during practice are met with negative punishments (fines), while exceptional performances are met with positive reinforcers (bounties).