In The Game: Right move: Panel reinstates Saints Bounty Gate players

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    The NFL Bounty Gate soap opera has been renewed for, well, a short time, or so it seems.

    After NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell implemented unprecedented chastisement to the New Orleans Saints coaches and players earlier in the year, my main question was did Goodell overreach his authority or where was the hard evidence the Saints players actually hurt someone?

    I have not seen the damning hits nor has any sports channel been able to come up with injuries produced by Saints players during the so-call Bounty Gate period.

    Recently a three-person appeals panel, consisting of retired federal judge Fern Smith of San Francisco, retired federal judge Richard Howell of New York and Georgetown professor James Oldham, struck down the harsh suspensions handed out by Goodell for Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and former Saints defensive players Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove and ruled that they could play in the season opening games.

    As I noted before, it is almost impossible to not tackle but twist, maim or mutilate an individual without the public or NFL administration seeing it with all the television cameras affixed on every game.

    The fact of the matter is football, especially the NFL where the biggest, strongest and fastest gladiators take center stage in American Coliseums, which are fashioned from the world famous Roman Coliseum, is a very violent game, where there is a 100 percent injury risk under normal circumstances.

    So I understand the perceptions that the Saints allegedly administered an illegal bounty program between 2009 and 2011, where defensive players were financially compensated for injuring opposing offensive players, is to be scorned and outlawed.

    However, it appears those in-house words were just words to fire up a defense. It appears there is no real evidence that the Saints’ players did anything more than make a hard tackle or sack.

    The fact of the matter is players all across the league are compensated with incentives, bonuses, extended contracts and recognition on ESPN and other television stations for fumbles caused, sacks and bone jarring hits.

    Every defensive player is trying to put as hard a hit on an opposing runner or receiver or quarterback as he possibly can.

    Knockouts and cremating hits are what the game is all about. Every team wants, needs to take out a quarterback or running back to ensure a chance at winning a game.

    It seems to me that while Goodell’s intensions appear to be honorable, it in fact is more about the NFL’s image and public relation status to the world, and to the courts where there are hundreds of current litigated cases on the books concerning dementia and early onset of Alzheimer’s.

    The NFL ignored for too long the cries of its players and the undeniable signs for too many years on the football field where big bodies were clashing into each other.

    Conversely, the league has made long needed rule changes against helmet-to-helmet and defenseless player hits.

    So it was just a natural that the NFL would overstep itself to prove they really care about their players.

    This severe punishment enacted on New Orleans coaches and players looks good on paper, but it was really all about public relations and perceptions.

    I think Goodell was trying to make sure he sent the right message, that the league is trying to focus on the health and safety of its players.

    I get what he is trying to do, but to sacrifice a few young men playing a sport that has the shortest careers is as wrong as the bounty system.

    One has to make absolutely sure that other players were intentionally hurt and that those suspended players did the damage.

    Perceptions and public relation is good for the NFL, but what about the men who have given their blood and sweat to football?

    If the NFL re-suspends those players, which it appears they may have the ability to do, they should make darn sure it is not just a image move, but is based on the fact those young men did indeed hurt and tried to injure other players.

    Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII.

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