Kovacevic: NFL Ultimate Enabler on Bounties

Article excerpt

The NFL again has assumed its perpetually awkward position on a high horse, this time by exposing the New Orleans Saints for a bounty program that compromised "the integrity of our game."

That was Roger Goodell's characterization in the league's announcement Friday. He cited the single most important aspect of competition any commissioner is entrusted to protect.

For real.

In related news, Goodell was informed that interior linemen sometimes will say really mean things about each other's moms before a snap.

This crisis -- and it's reaching that level, judging by the hyperbolic coast-to-coast coverage over the weekend -- was so stunning, so jarring, that its unique impact could be felt ... for nearly an hour.

By late Friday afternoon, Tony Dungy told Pro Football Talk that the Tennessee Titans used to put up bounties on Peyton Manning.

Before dinner, the Washington Post broke that the 2004-07 Redskins -- playing for the same defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, being implicated in the New Orleans case -- did exactly the same thing.

And by nightfall, current and former NFL players everywhere were nearly unified in their abject ambivalence to this qualifying as news. As Matt Bowen, a safety for those Washington teams, penned for a piece in the Chicago Tribune, "Bounties, cheap shots, whatever you want to call them, they're part of this game."

So, who in Goodell's NFL Security force got the Sherlock Award for this coup?

Was Seal Team 6 summoned?

Understand, please: I'm not making light of athletes putting bounties on competitors. Some of the cases described involving these Saints and Redskins can turn a stomach, not least of which was New Orleans specifically targeting Kurt Warner and Brett Favre for injury. It's an abhorrent practice, and the league is absolutely right to put an immediate and harsh stop to it.

But that shouldn't stop anyone from asking why exactly the NFL waited so long.

Or to question whether the league is serious this time.

You probably remember the league's best chance in recent years to address this, publicly and firmly, even if the league won't appreciate the reminder. Happened in October 2008, soon after a game between the Steelers and Ravens -- naturally -- when Baltimore loudmouth linebacker Terrell Suggs was part of this exchange on a radio show:

Host: "Did y'all put a bounty out on that young man?"

The reference was to the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall.

Suggs: "Definitely. The bounty was out on him, and the bounty was out on Hines Ward. We just didn't get him between the whistles. …