The Bountygate punishment was handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday and it was very stiff to say the least. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season and the team was fined $500,000 for operating a bounty program against opponents for starters. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately and GM Mickey Loomis was suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season. In addition, assistant Joe Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games and the Saints were stripped of their 2012 and 2013 second-round draft picks.
We have heard ever since the investigation into the Saints bounty program was front page news a few weeks ago that the penalty would be steep, as Goodell would be attempting to put his foot down hard enough for all of the league to hear in regards to player safety. It does seem though that he has turned a blind eye to blatant bounties put out by the likes of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall a few years ago.
If that hypocrisy is not enough, Goodell is basically let the league and fans know that player safety is a much more serious offense than cheating is. Of course this relates to the New England Patriots Spygate. The Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches\' signals during a September game in 2007 from the sidelines. After an investigation, Goodell fined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000. The team also was stripped of original 2008 first-round draft pick in addition, but that was conditional, because had the Patriots missed the playoffs that year, they would have only been stripped of their second- and third-round selections instead.
That Jets game apparently wasn\'t the only Patriots taping incident either as Belichick had admitted to taping signals dating back to 2000. After the investigation of all of the tapes was completed, they were reportedly destroyed, which led several to think that there was more being information being hidden and that something else was being covered up. Then Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who was also a member of the NFL Competition Committee at the time, said that it was up to Goodell to determine culpability. He was quoted as saying, "It\'s clearly against the rules. ... With technology the way it is now, things can get out of hand in a matter of weeks if we don\'t protect the integrity of the game."
Ah, the integrity of the game. Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who was on NFL Total Access just over a week ago, said pretty much the same thing when asked about the difference between Bountygate and Spygate. He said he was curious to see if Goodell would treat Bountygate as a bigger black eye than Spygate. Well, today Clark got his answer and that answer was as expected, a yes.
So while Goodell will hide behind protecting the safety of the players with his harsh ruling handed down on Wednesday, he can\'t hide behind the fact that he considers bounties on players as more serious than cheating. For comparison sakes, Goodell thinks bounties on players is first degree murder and cheating as jaywalking.