The Hammer Will Be Dropped on Gregg Williams
Written By: Jarrett Bell | USA Today
When Roger Goodell metes out what is expected to be harsh punishment for a New Orleans Saints bounty system that represents perhaps the most blatant violation of football ethics under his watch, the NFLcommissioner might borrow that phrase from the book of aggression authored by former defensive coordinatorGregg Williams.
It was Williams who boldly declared during the Saints’ march to a Super Bowl crown during the 2009 season that his players would deliver “remember me” shots to opposing quarterbacks as a statement of their intimidation.
According to findings of an NFL investigation released Friday — one that implicated Williams, general managerMickey Loomis and 22 to 27 Saints defensive players from 2009 to ’11 — the tough talk was a reflection of a larger scheme.
It even came with a price list:
•Knock out an opposing player? $1,500.
•Deliver the blow that results in an opponent getting carted off the field? $1,000.
•Strike such a debilitating blow during the do-or-die playoffs? Double or triple payments.
The fund, which might have reached as much as $50,000 during the 2009 playoffs, was fueled by contributions from players and Williams, the NFL said.
“There’s no place in the game for that,” Kurt Warner, the Hall of Fame-credentialed quarterback who was knocked out of his final NFL game against the Saints during the 2009 NFC playoffs, told USA TODAY. “So obviously this is troubling.”
Against the backdrop of the NFL’s initiative on safety and former players’ lawsuits charging the league didn’t do enough to protect them from head injuries, it’s in Goodell’s hands to make a statement that will likely exceed the enormous penalties levied against the New England Patriots for their “Spygate” infractions during the 2007 season.
Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were docked $250,000 and a first-round draft pick for videotaping the signals of New York Jets defensive coaches.
According to an person familiar with Goodell’s thinking who is not authorized to speak publicly while the case is ongoing, the commissioner views the Saints’ case as a critical opportunity to underscore the league’s burgeoning emphasis on safety and need to change a culture that sometimes promotes injuries, another sign a significant penalty could be coming.
The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the situation, reported Sunday that the suspensions could be a half-season or longer in some cases.
During his six-year reign Goodell has typically moved swiftly in determining discipline. He is expected to rule before NFL owners convene for meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 25.
As outlined in the league’s announcement on Friday, the discipline could include fines, suspensions and loss of draft picks.
“The stance that Roger takes will have to reflect the thought that everybody — coaches, owners, players, staff members — has to realize that they cannot put themselves in a situation where they are jeopardizing the integrity of the game,” Hall of Fame safetyRonnie Lott, a member of the NFL safety committee, told USA TODAY. “Everyone has to be accountable.”