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Monday, March 5, 2012
Weigh in on the Saints' scandal

By Pat Yasinskas

SportsNation has six polls up on what has suddenly become the hottest topic in sports -- the New Orleans Saints and the “bounty program’’ the NFL says they ran the past three seasons.

I urge you to go over there and vote and voice your opinions in the comments section below.

I just hit the polls and will reveal my vote (and logic) on each question to start the conversation.

In the top question about how the Saints should be punished, I voted for “all of the above." In other words, I’m saying they should be fined, players, coaches and perhaps even general manager Mickey Loomis should be suspended, and the team should have to forfeit draft picks. My logic on this is simple: This is some really bad stuff.

Don’t tell me “football’s a physical game’’ and this sort of thing “happens everywhere." There might be some truth in that. But we’re not debating whether football’s a physical game. We’re talking about a bounty system former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams already has admitted to. The league is saying Loomis was told to put a stop to the program, but didn’t. The league also says coach Sean Payton knew of the program and did nothing to stop it. Heck, I want to hear more details, but there’s a part of me that thinks suspensions for Payton and Loomis might not be harsh enough. If what the league says is true, I’m thinking the roles of Loomis and Payton in all this perhaps should cost them their jobs.

The second question is about whether using bounties in the NFL is fair or foul. I voted for foul. Again, we are talking about a physical game. But we’re also talking about what the NFL clearly says was an organized system that rewarded defenders for injuring other players. That’s against NFL rules. It might even be against some other rules.

The third question made me think a little harder than the first two. It asks whether it’s fair or foul to have a bounty system for defensive plays that don’t induce injury but do result in touchdowns, sacks, interceptions, etc. While that may violate the NFL’s salary cap, I don’t have a big problem with that. If a guy gets a sack or returns an interception for a touchdown and his teammates throw him $500 or $1,000, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Sort of reminds me of when I was playing high school baseball. The sportswriter for our hometown paper used to give us a quarter (this was a long time ago, and inflation probably has raised the going rate to 50 cents) for each RBI. I’ll admit, I was guilty of accepting a few quarters.

The fourth question is about how widespread bounty systems are in the NFL. The choices are that all teams have them, most teams have them or some teams have them. I went with some teams. I don’t think the Saints are alone in this, but I don’t think all or most teams do it, and I doubt any program was as structured as what was going on in New Orleans.

The fifth question is whether bounty programs help with team chemistry. I voted yes. Not saying bounty programs are right by any means, but I don’t think having a common goal hurts team chemistry in the least bit.

The final question is about whether the Saints deserve a harsher penalty than the Patriots got (the loss of a first-round draft pick and a fine) for Spygate. I said the Saints deserve a harsher penalty. In Spygate, there were a lot of allegations, but most of them weren’t proved to be true as the case played out. In the case of the Saints, it sounds like the league already has confirmed a bunch of serious allegations, and it’s simply a matter of time until commissioner Roger Goodell, who is big on player-safety issues, hands out his ruling on discipline. I expect it to be harsh. The Patriots may have broken some rules. The Saints, by intentionally attempting to hurt opponents, clearly broke NFL rules and maybe more than that.