When I stop to think about this whole mess, there's only one thing that really comes to mind. It's not about the legality of the hits, it's not about "bringing it", it's not about upping the intensity, it's about fostering intentions to injure other players and, that, my friends, is not right.
We all watch football, some of us played or still do play it, we all understand the risk that is involved when these guys step out there with linebackers who can bench 250 pounds 40 times and run like the wind. Football is violent, but that's not the problem. I'd say it's plenty violent without having to include the added incentive to go for the kill shots.
The question about how much do players really care about making an extra 10k is being raised. I think that's beside the point. It's not about how much money they're making for blowing out somebody else's knee, I'd still be pretty off-put if they were getting Skittles and Pogs, the fact is that a reward system exists. It's positive reinforcement for something that can't be construed as a positive. Hopefully, we can all agree that an injury is never a good thing. Even when Peyton Manning went down, most of us here could muster up some kind of sympathy because all things considered, that really sucked for football fans everywhere.
I don't know if there exists a system of head-hunting among players in which they reward each other for big hits or whatever, but even that would be less of a load than this whole system where the defensive coordinator pays players out of his pocket after they injure another player while everyone else stands around, knowing full well that this is going on, and doesn't say anything to anybody. That's messed up. There's also a big difference between playing physical, hard hitting defense and this bounty system crap. If I need to explain that one to you then you should probably stop watching football altogether.
In the end, it's not really about the intent of the defensive players to me. I know the feeling, a lot of the members of MCM know the feeling, too. It feels good to light someone up. What really disturbs me is the system of doling out cash rewards for it. Guys, this is how these men make a living. They play the most violent sport on earth for about five years, that's why they make so much money, their careers are fundamentally short. Why would you ever try to make it even shorter? I don't understand the mentality, I really don't. Yes, it feels great to make contact, but unless you're sick in the head, there's nothing that feels good about seeing someone you just hit fall down and not get back up again. This is spoken from a high school football perspective, there's not a whole lot on the line for most of us. A scholarship or two may get lost in there somewhere among the mass of injuries, but for the most part it's just a few months in crutches. Not so bad in the grand scheme of things. For NFL players, you are making the decision to reward players to mess with the lives of other human beings. There's a lot to lose when you aren't guaranteed a roster spot. Despite what the old adage says, it's very easy to lose your job to injury. In the end, that's what it is, it's a job. This is a career choice, just because it's glamorous for the ones who are lucky doesn't make it any less demanding or legitimate.
Again, I must reiterate that it's not the violence of the sport that offends me, it's the reward system set up for guys who decide that it's worth messing up someone else's life for a cool ten grand. Got someone on the other side who's giving you hell? Design a better scheme to stop him, don't resort to crap like this to try and get him taken out. While we're still vaguely on the topic of job security, I understand that a lot of a defensive coordinator's job depends on the success of his defense and his teams' record. The "win at all costs" slogan is something I can generally get behind, but this is too much.
Finally, there absolutely need to be ramifications to this. Harsh ones.
Mickey Loomis? Don't get me started. This guy not only knew this was going on, he damn well knew it was wrong too. Want to know how I know this? First, he tried to cover it up back in 2010 when the league started looking into this kind of thing, then he decided to come out and say that he'd personally see to the discontinuation of anything of this nature if it was discovered to exist. Well, it did exist and you can be sure he knew about it. In fact, team owner Tom Benson told him about it. Benson then ordered a halt to it. Loomis did nothing. He buried his head in the sand and waited for it go leave him alone. I can see a few scenarios in which he is allowed to carry on as general manager, but not many. How many of you in your jobs would be retained after directly disobeying the orders of your superiors? I know I wouldn't be. Of course, we can't expect that everyone involved will have to be fired, that's just not realistic, but I certainly expect heads to roll, Loomis included.
Moving on, if Gregg Williams is allowed to work in the NFL at any capacity ever again, the system has failed. You can't foster this type of thing for your whole career and expect me to believe that you're actually sorry it happened. Now, I don't like to venture into the minds of people I don't know, but I get the feeling Williams is more sorry he got caught than he is that this happened. Coaching in the NFL is a right, just like any other job, do not give Williams the chance to burn the league again for this.
There's no looking past the fact that this was wrong. I don't care about your opinions on how "team pride" plays into targeting big smack-talkers or any of that other crap, targeting specific players with the intent to injure is a punk move at any level. Think of it this way: what if it came out tomorrow that Williams specifically said to target the Titans whenever they came to town? You know you'd be mad, I would be too, it's a cruddy thing to do and someone needs to be held accountable.