Goodell makes Saints pay

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell served noticed to the rest of the league when he came down hard on...

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell served noticed to the rest of the league when he came down hard on the Saints for their pay-to-injure program, John Kryk says. (Reuters file photo)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:27 PM ET

WACO, TEX. - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't have come down harder on the Bountygate perpetrators — or inflicted more deliberate damage to them — if he'd been coached by them.

Cheap shot? Sure.

But the guilty on the New Orleans Saints perfected that art, after all.

How do they feel about the severe punishments Goodell delivered to them Wednesday? Hopefully a lot like Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Adrian Peterson and other suspected victims of the Saints' intent-to-injure bounty program felt when they limped, were carted, or were helped off the field in previous seasons.

Good.

And good for Goodell.

Whatever he does for the rest of his tenure as leader and chief conscience of the NFL, Goodell will be remembered most for this, I suspect.

We are unlikely ever to see a recurrence of Bountygate in our lifetimes — that is, a team conducting a program that sees players motivated by and rewarded with cash bounties for various levels of injurious hits.

Goodell's harsh but deserved punishment of the Taints, er, Saints, virtually assures it.

How do we know this? History. Always, there is history to inform us.

After then-baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis famously banned eight players for life after the "Black Sox" scandal in 1919, betting on baseball games by major-league players ceased to be a problem. Instantly. It was that way for more than 70 years — until one stupid gambling addict, Pete Rose, destroyed his legacy by doing it in 1989.

Maybe in 70 years time some similarly stupid NFL coach will think he can get away with a bounty program. But I doubt it.

Goodell just pulled a Landis. And he probably isn't done administering justice on this.

He hit everybody hard but the players. Indeed, there are a few Saints defenders who'd better cut back on their spending.

With the punishments he handed out on Wednesday, Goodell effectively said this: Cheating to win is bad, but deliberately aiming to injure is more than twice as bad.

If you recall, Goodell fined head coach Bill Belichick $500,000, fined his New England Patriots $250,000 and stripped the Pats of a first-round draft pick for the clandestine videotaping of Jets defensive coaches' signals in 2007.

On Wednesday, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000, stripped the team of its second-round draft pick this year and next, suspended head coach Sean Payton for a full season without pay, suspended then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with the Rams) for a full season at least (his suspension is indefinite), suspended GM Mickey Loomis for eight games, and suspended an assistant coach for six games.

When I asked "The Godfather" — Gil Brandt, a longtime NFL executive and still a revered talent guru — about Bountygate just minutes after it broke on March 2, he compared it to Spygate like this:

"I think they're both an invasion of the integrity of the game," Brandt said. "But I would think that (Spygate) would have a lesser negative effect on the game than when you could possibly lose a Peterson or a Warner, or a player of that type."

Goodell clearly agrees.

News of the punishments broke (via Twitter, of course) about halfway through Baylor University's Pro Day workouts. Dozens of NFL head coaches and player-personnel staff were mingling or sitting together, watching 40-yard dashes. There wasn't a growing murmur or anything like that, but for the next hour or so there were a lot of hushed conversations.

Neither Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan nor Bears head coach Lovie Smith would comment on Bountygate when asked by QMI Agency. You can bet, however, that they and every other NFL head coach will ensure that nothing remotely resembling a bounty program exists on their teams.

For the NFL, for its players, for the sport, and for sportsmanship in general, that is a very good thing.

Thanks to Goodell.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/KrykSlants


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