Hello, Saints: NFL violence not same as premeditated assault

Gregg Williams admits, "It was a terrible mistake and we knew it was wrong when we were doing it." Too late. (AP photo)

Gregg Williams admits, "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong when we were doing it." Too late. (AP photo)

During his NFL career, Doug Plank suffered multiple concussions — they didn’t really count them back then — five knee surgeries and a spinal concussion that left his left leg partially numb in retirement. He might have played longer than eight seasons, but, as he said, “I made 100 tackles per season. That’s like 800 train wrecks.”

This is what Doug Plank, one of the tougher men ever to play football, the guy for whom the Chicago Bears’ famous “46 defense” was named, thinks of the New Orleans Saints reportedly putting bounties on players.

“I can’t believe a coach, a team or an organization would stand behind that policy,” he said. “For a coach to even address something like that with players, like, ‘This is a person we can remove from the game,’ that puts you on pretty thin ice. If this is true, when you make a decision [on discipline], you have to understand that actions like that affect all the people in this business. It needs to be something that says, ‘This will not be accepted.’”

When the NFL disclosed Friday, in alarming detail and transparency, that the New Orleans Saints maintained a “bounty” program for three seasons, involving “22 to 27 defensive players” and “at least one assistant coach,” I was initially underwhelmed. We celebrate violence in football, at all levels. The bigger hit, the better.

But there’s a difference between rewarding an athlete for an unscripted play and a premeditated assault. Yes, football is a brutal and physical game. Players generally fall into one of three categories: 1) A little crazy; 2) A lot crazy; 3) Waived. But that doesn’t excuse New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for basically pinning a poster to a locker-room wall, reading, “WANTED: Kurt Warner. Maimed. Reward: $10,000.”

Doug Plank coached the Arena league's Georgia Force and now is in Philadelphia. (AJC photo)

Doug Plank, former Georgia Force coach, knows about legalized NFL violence. (AJC photo)

Warner and Brett Favre were two of the players identified in the report as targets. Allegations were initially investigated in 2010 but were denied and couldn’t be proved. New information led to the investigation being reopened in 2011.

The NFL’s statement reads like a federal indictment, with bullet points on “payments for cart-offs,” funding practices and the damning actions of general manager Mickey Loomis.

If there is a line between the NFL being controlled or barbaric, the Saints crossed it. Williams and coach Sean Payton should be suspended for a season. Loomis, who may have lied to both his owner and the NFL, should be out of a job. The team should, and will, lose draft picks. The punishment needs to hurt.

Former Georgia defensive end and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack goes even further.

“If it’s true that [Williams] paid for Warner and Favre’s injuries for late hits, we need to talk about permanent bans,” he said.

Those trivializing this as some boys-will-be-boys offense are missing the point. This goes beyond cheating, like “Spygate.” We’re talking about people’s careers and lives.

It’s significant that even Williams admitted, “It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.”

Suddenly, he doesn’t seem so tough.

Plank, former Georgia Force coach and now the Arena league coach in Philadelphia, played for defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan in Chicago. Ryan was alleged to have put bounties on Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas when he coached the Eagles. But Plank said he wasn’t aware of any coach-run bounty system in Chicago, and when he played (1975-82) players didn’t make enough to fund such a system.

“When I played, you got rewarded for the big hit or big play of the game,” he said. “At Ohio State, it was called the ‘Jack Tatum Hit of the Game.’ In Chicago if you made a big play I think they gave you a dinner for two. But that was after the fact. What we’re talking about in New Orleans is more in advance. Buddy didn’t stand in front of a room while we were watching film and say, ‘This guy has to go down.’”

Williams did as much. He admits it.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will swing a sledgehammer. Bounty rules, he said, ensure “player safety and competitive integrity.”

Everything else is window dressing.

By Jeff Schultz

175 comments Add your comment

dean

March 6th, 2012
12:53 pm

As Phil would say, “Fire somebody!”

CAPT-ATL

March 6th, 2012
12:53 pm

Nice Job Jeff. Somehow, some fans, both Saints and other, cant grasp the headline. Seems pretty simple, but I guess that simple is not simple to some.

CAPT-ATL

March 6th, 2012
1:02 pm

Another thing. Whatever penalty is handed down to Gregg Williams, Payton should get stiffer penalties. He is the Head Coach and ultimately the ONE responsible for the people he hires in regards to NFL rules. Seems that Payton wrote in his book that one of his best quality’s is his attention to detail. Well, Payton coming out and saying he knew “little” and that he never read the email from 2x convicted felon, Mike Ornstein in regards to funding the bounty pool by $10,000.00 is absolute BS. He should get a year for thinking any rational thinking person would buy that line. Some will buy it, but that is the group who does not know simple.

Matt Ryan's Dad

March 6th, 2012
1:02 pm

Along with suspensions, fines and draft picks being taken away, is it to much to ask Goodell to allow us Falcon’s fans to pee on the Saints logo?

Frank Lane

March 6th, 2012
1:02 pm

There are to be suspensions for the coaches involved. Perhaps permanent but long
enough to send really clear message.

Bill

March 6th, 2012
1:03 pm

Great writing Jeff,hope the NFL comes down hard on them.Like the Falcons I don’t think the Saints have a first rounder.

By the way that picture of Plank makes him look like he could be a stunt double for Mark Harmon on NCIS.

CAPT-ATL

March 6th, 2012
1:07 pm

The real smoking gun in this, is that owner Tom Benson is standing by Loomis and Payton. Either he is an idiot and lets the inmates run the asylum, or they are covering for him, and…. I dont think he is an idiot.

extremus

March 6th, 2012
1:08 pm

An article today describes Drew Brees as “livid” at the Saints regarding contract negotiations (and I wouldn’t be surprised if this bounty fiasco has a little something to do with it as well). Looks like the salad days are about to be over in NA.

Heh, I know the Falcons are already considering hurting the Saints by signing their guard Nicks; how awesome would it be to see Brees bolt them as well (doesn’t matter much where he goes, but preferably the AFC). Franchise tagging him may only be delaying the inevitable; that franchise has some dark days ahead.

Jeff B

March 6th, 2012
1:20 pm

@CAPT-ATL – This is a critical time in the league year, with free agency about to start next week. I get the sense that Benson is just trying to keep his organization from falling apart. Standing by them now doesn’t preclude him from changing his mind later, after more details come out and the punishments are handed down…

Jeff B

March 6th, 2012
1:25 pm

Jeff Schultz, I think your argument is convincing. Personally, I think the permanent ban should be considered for Greg Williams only. My reasoning is that this bounty system seems to have followed him wherever he went in the NFL. Payton and Loomis need to be suspensed for sure though.

abby normal

March 6th, 2012
1:28 pm

As I said in a previous post, Tom Benson should do the right thing and fire Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton. It won’t happen, of course, because pro sports is all about winning at any cost.
It will be interesting to see how the Rams handle the Gregg Williams situation if he is suspended for say half the season.

Bubba Bean

March 6th, 2012
1:34 pm

“Who Dat?….Who Dat?…” BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving, class-less bunch of clowns. They have a great quarterback and decided not to pay the man, so they’ve ‘rented’ him for one more year. He won’t be coming back. What a bunch of losers! Better go looking for some of those old paper bags with ‘Ain’ts’ written on them ’cause it looks like it’s going to be bad for a while in the “Armpit of America”.

probably the same players that will sue NFL later for their health issues

March 6th, 2012
1:37 pm

Wow, Jeff is 100% correct in stating it is not the same as premeditated assult.
Along with Mark Bradleys recent column of a more detailed account of offenses and how deep it ran in the organization, I would say HARSH punishment is warranted.
Kind of amazing the NFL publicized this without being coerced by a “60 Minutes” type expose.
Payton, Williams, the GM, and every player involved should be banned for a year and draft picks taken away. They can fill their roster with arena league players and suffer for a year.

probably the same players that will sue NFL later for their health issues

March 6th, 2012
1:39 pm

It is basically premeditated assault

Aint's are as ghetto as their city

March 6th, 2012
1:42 pm

Atlanta Falcons–2012 Division Champs! Another step forward

Seen (scandal) This (Taint the Saints) B4

March 6th, 2012
1:44 pm

Hey, let’s be fair, maybe there’s another side to this story–maybe the Payton had a deal where he offered the opposing players some of his painkillers to help recover from the dirty hits. LOL LOL LOL

Wow the Saints’ trolls must be in hiding. Not a whiff of them on these boards…just like after the Marshawn Lynch run in the 2010 playoffs. And of course after embarassing losses the last two seasons (Cleveland in 2010, Rams in 2011)…and of course as their “Two-Dat” dream died with their inability to cover Vernon Davis in this year’s playoffs…

Rationale

March 6th, 2012
1:46 pm

I agree with David Pollack. Any and all coaches should be banned from the NFL, for life, Head coach, DC, regardless, and the players. As a friend and client said to me today “Brett Favre was never the same after the beating he took that day.”
The shame of this is that it was clear the day that NO and GB were playing that the Saints were trying to take Favre out of the game. It was also clear that the referees were allowing the hits to take place. The NFL is just as responsible with this as the coaches.

Vulture

March 6th, 2012
1:47 pm

Mountain Man

March 6th, 2012
1:50 pm

Strip N.O. of their franchise tag. Force them to negotiate and pay Brees what he’s worth, thereby leaving much less money in which to sign the rest of their free agents. Ban Williams from the game. Suspend Peyton for the year. Take away this years 2nd rounder and next years 1st rounder.

That should do it.

Katrina II is brewing....hehehehe

March 6th, 2012
1:52 pm

Don’t allow any player that was involved to sue NFL, after retiring, for their own health problems related to playing.

Heyyyy Arrrchie!

March 6th, 2012
1:55 pm

Daddy Manning is gonna be pissed if they messed with his boys.
He’s not gonna be the 45 year face of the franchise anymore.

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Sonny Clusters

March 6th, 2012
1:59 pm

Is it easier to play baseball with a partially dislocated knee cap or with some sore thighs? We was wondering because Freddie is playing today and Chipper is sitting out with a boo boo. When our thighs get sore we get a pretty girl to rub some liniment on them and then we go out and play nine. The kind of liniment makes a difference because some of it smells kinda bad and some of it has fragrance added that makes you smell like sore peppermint. When we was playing ball we never liked to sit next to a liniment wearer or Stinky Wintes.

Rationale

March 6th, 2012
2:01 pm

This should not be handled as a slap on the hand. This needs to be handled in a way that it hits the Saints as hard as the hits were on Warner and Favre, especially Favre. Peyton needs to be banned, permanently. He had to know this was going on. Also, the owner and GM had to know also, because the cash had to come from somewhere. They had to pay out the fines. Every top level person of any significance, needs to be reprimanded. If not, where does this stop? For full disclosure, I did not have a dog in this fight. Could have cared less who won the game. This comes down to individual personal responsibility.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

March 6th, 2012
2:06 pm

Spygate was a lot worse – it was cheating.

Stop WHINING Falcant fan base……… :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

March 6th, 2012
2:09 pm

Atlanta has blood on their own hands………….

You can’t tell me the hit on DJax in 2010 & Maclin in 2011 by Dunta Robinson wasn’t encourage by Smitty.

Both of which received huge fines for Robinson.

Stop WHINING and look in the mirror.

Don’t be hating the Saints because you can’t beat them on the football field…………

HA HA HA :)

steve brown

March 6th, 2012
2:10 pm

If you pay a hit man to murder someone and are caught you go to prison for life or you are executed. Here we have premeditated payments for maiming players ( what if one was killed) and it seems to me lifetime bans and prison sentences are not out of the question.

FEMA

March 6th, 2012
2:13 pm

As if I needed another reason to hate the Saints!!! Hahaha I hope they get the death penalty of the NFL whatever that may be. :) suck the faints

Good Grief

March 6th, 2012
2:17 pm

Can an NFL franchise be given the equivalent of the NCAA’s “Death penalty?” With the blatant disregard of safety and other rules taking place here, it seems warranted. They still play their games, but the take a hit on draft picks and also lost the ability to reach the post-season for 2 years, even if they go 16-0.

You're worthless

March 6th, 2012
2:17 pm

Here’s the douch_e matt chokes ryan with his stupid comments again.

Skeezix

March 6th, 2012
2:22 pm

I have been amazed at the number of folks who have no problem with this barbaric Saints’ practice. It shows how much we as a nation have slipped morally. We just keep lowering the bar…..

Skeezix

March 6th, 2012
2:25 pm

I am not an attorney or judge—but this behavior may be criminal; if not, it should be.

Innocent Bystander

March 6th, 2012
2:26 pm

“But there’s a difference between rewarding an athlete for an unscripted play and a premeditated assault.”

I couldn’t disagree more. If that scripted play involves going out and looking for an opportunity to injure an opposing player, that, by definition, is premeditated. There is no difference between that and a stalker who camps outside someone’s residence, waiting for them to leave, so that they can attack and injure them. Neither situation is scripted, though both include malicious intent and rely on circumstance to present an opportunity.

lanier

March 6th, 2012
2:29 pm

enough Jeff time to go to something else

ATL Fan

March 6th, 2012
2:32 pm

Is paying someone to hit an opponent hard enough to get them carted off the field legal?

Emergency Room

March 6th, 2012
2:45 pm

The sAints have no dignity.

Emergency Room

March 6th, 2012
2:45 pm

The sAints have no dignity.

In the Navy

March 6th, 2012
2:58 pm

The NFL ought to treat this like the USN. No matter what happens or when, the Captain of the ship is at fault and receives the greatest punishment. Not sure where Tom Benson was during all of this, but the recently sainted owner of the Saints had planned to move them to San Antonio before Katrina made them all martyrs. Start with the Head Coach and move down. If this happened in the real world people would be getting indicted!

5150 UOAD

March 6th, 2012
3:02 pm

Butkus said it and it is true. If you want the game to be safer and less violent just eliminate the helmets or face masks. If we further reduce the amount of safety equipment the players wear the Violence of the game will diminish greatly. More and more when you watch the game there is less good tackling form. Players rely on throwing their bodies at other players making a hit and not really a tackle. If the equipment that allows players to play more reckless was to be eliminated the game will be safer but maybe not a better product. Well with all the people wanting more safety maybe the product needs to be toned down.

Bomb Iran

March 6th, 2012
3:05 pm

Yeah it only took you 5 days to write an article. pathetic

Crusted

March 6th, 2012
3:07 pm

What is funny is many of these players make 2-4 million a year. Some even more. And they act like getting 1000 or 2000 or even 10000 for a playoff game is some huge incentive. Just goes to show where they come from. Poor house.

ATL Fan

March 6th, 2012
3:08 pm

Rename the Saints as Noxii.
Rename the Superdome to Spoliarium.

Vulture

March 6th, 2012
3:09 pm

Think Steve Spagnuolo regrets taking the Aints job?

Heath

March 6th, 2012
3:11 pm

Funny how the roaches scurry for cover when the light is turned on.

reckingball

March 6th, 2012
3:17 pm

I agree with Shultz, but monetary fines should also be imposed along with at least, one year suspensions for Williams, Payton, and Loomis.
They should at the very least recieve $1million fines each.
The saints organization should be fined at least $5million.
First 5 draft choices confisicated this year, and the #1 choices for the next two years, taken away.

FalconJim

March 6th, 2012
3:24 pm

I hope the “Taints” get what they deserve. There’s no place in sports for trying to end a player’s career, or worse…..their life. Things like that doesn’t just affect the player, and his ability to provide for his family, it’s also a moral depravity to want to intentionally hurt a player.

Hope their fans haven’t thrown away their brown paper bags just yet…..they may need ‘em again…

reckingball

March 6th, 2012
3:25 pm

Roger Goodell should fine his own self $1million, for allowing the saints to commit so many personal fouls over the last 3years, without being flagged, by his Zebras.
Example, 2009 NFC Championship Game, how many personal fouls did they commit against Farve without being penalized? It was beyond obvisious that the NFL wanted the saints to win that game.

reckingball

March 6th, 2012
3:28 pm

PreyDawg

March 6th, 2012
3:54 pm

reckingball you nailed it!!! This is the larger point. I tried to make it on the Bradley article yesterday. Any fan with half a brain could see that the Saints were getting away with murder game after game, yet no flags were forthcoming. Our last game against them we got some ridiculous flags anytime we came close to hitting hard. Meanwhile they were cheap shoting the Falcons all game long and got only one call (I think).

Therut

March 6th, 2012
3:59 pm

Went out and voted today. Trying to oust a guy that puts a bounty on people that work hard and make something of themselves.