The recent hot news topic around the NFL right now is the bounty program that Gregg Williams ran while he was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. Williams, who is now the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, has already come forward and apologized for his role in the bounties, and now he and the Saints organization will wait for the investigation to finish. Williams, players and the Saints could all be subject to significant penalties, including suspensions, fines and the loss of draft picks when the league issues their final findings.
On Saturday the news escalated when it was reported that the league will look into a possible similar bounty system that Williams ran while defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins between 2004 and 2007 after a former Redskins coach and five players came forward on Friday with admissions. One player that played for Williams in Washington in 2004 and 2005 that is not likely to squeal like a pig during the investigation is Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
Clark took to Twitter on Friday after the “Bounty Gate” news broke and tweeted, ” Whoever is snitching on the Saints D should be ashamed of themselves. No one was talking about the “bounty” when they got paid. #shame!” A short time later Clark tweeted, “I am not saying that “bounties” are ethical or right but I am saying if you participate don\’t go back & tell on the people u did it with!” That sounds like a line out of the movie Fight Club. Clark is clearly suggesting that the first rule of a bounty club, should you indeed be in one, is to not talk about about the bounty club.
Whoever is snitching on the Saints D should be ashamed of themselves. No one was talking about the “bounty” when they got paid. #shame!
— ryan clark (@RealRClark25) March 2, 2012
I am not saying that “bounties” are ethical or right but I am saying if you participate don\’t go back & tell on the people u did it with!
— ryan clark (@RealRClark25) March 2, 2012
Is this an admission of guilt by Clark? Absolutely not, well not technically, but you can bet that he will honor the code of the locker room and perhaps refuse to be cooperative with the league investigation going forward, even if it cost him a suspension or a fine for doing so. He has made it clear over the years that he is not a big fan of commissioner Roger Goodell and has voiced his concerns about the Steelers being targets of the league office as it relates to illegal hits and fines.
The late safety Sean Taylor, who was Clark\’s best friend and former teammate in Washington, apparently made a lot of money in the bounty type system that Williams reportedly ran, according to Philip Daniels, a former Redskins defensive lineman and their current director of player development. Protecting the legacy of Taylor is another reason that Clark will likely remain silent, but the stat sheet unfortunately will not in regards to Taylor and the Redskins. From 2004 – 2007, Taylor was flagged for Unnecessary Roughness 4 times, Roughing the Passer 2 times and 15 Yard Face Mask 4 times. The Redskins as a team during that span were flagged 22 times for Unnecessary Roughness, Roughing the Passer 17 times and 15 Yard Face Mask 25 times.
Taylor was one hell of a safety and I for one always admired his style of physical play, just like I love the physical style of play of the Steelers defense year in and year out. Part of the reason we love the game of football is because of the hits and the physicality of it. The NFL has made a move over the last few years to soften up the game as it relates to big hits, or as they like to call them, illegal hits. I would hope that there is not a player in the league that wishes serious injury on another player, but if you think that bounty type systems have not existed in every one of the 32 team locker rooms around the league over the years, you are just fooling yourself.
Former Redskins safety, and teammate of Clark, Matt Bowen wrote Friday, “Bounties, cheap shots, whatever you want to call them, they are a part of this game. It is an ugly tradition that was exposed Friday with Williams front and center from his time coaching the defense in New Orleans. But don\’t peg this on him alone. You will find it in plenty of NFL cities.” I certainly do agree with Bowen. While quite a few players will come forward over the course of the next several weeks and admit to such bounties, I will not be surprised if Clark is not one of them. The code of the locker room has been around just as long as the bounty system has and I will respect the decision of Clark to honor it. He has to as he would be a hypocrite if he does otherwise.