-- Last week, former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said that he knew nothing of possible bounties paid for by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams while Williams worked for Gibbs from 2004 through 2007. "Just let me say this: I'm not aware of anything like this when I was coaching there," Gibbs told the Washington Post by phone. "I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never."
Greg Blache, who replaced Williams in 2008, backed Gibbs' story. Blache said that Gibbs "had no idea of what was happening. If he had, he would have put a stop to it."
Whether that was true at the time or not, George Starke -- one of Gibbs' original "Hogs" offensive linemen -- told ESPN's Washington D.C. radio affiliate that Gibbs has a long history with the bounty idea.
"That's just too stupid," Starke said of Gibbs' denial. "Of course he knew ... I think that Joe, if he was on the line here, would say, 'Well wait a minute -- I was giving out hundred-dollar bills as incentives for big plays, which is true. I want to be clear, I don't believe that Gregg Williams ever asked anybody to hurt anybody. I don't believe that. I don't know Gregg Williams, but players don't do that. I've never seen a player, ever, intentionally try to hurt another player.'"
Yet another example of the fact that cart-off hits have been incentivized for a very long time -- Starke also mentioned that in the 1970s, the Redskins once had a bounty of $200 for any player who knocked Roger Staubach out of a game. [The Washington Post]
-- Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has spoken to Williams since "BountyGate" became a new and unfortunate term, and the veteran not only defends his former coach, but says that Williams very much regrets where things stand right now.
"Gregg is very remorseful about everything that happened down with New Orleans and the situation there," said Fletcher, who has talked to Williams since the scandal broke. "He's admitted his role there, but I think he's disheartened by everything else that's coming out about the alleged bounties in Washington and also in Buffalo.
"He was my head coach in Buffalo, my defensive coordinator in Washington. I've known him for over 10 years. I was extremely shocked to hear his role in this whole bounty thing, because never at any point in time through the course of my relationship with Gregg Williams — either as my head coach or my defensive coordinator in Washington — did he ever get in front of us as a group and say I'm gonna give you X amount of dollars to go out and injure a player. He never did that, nor has any other coach that I've ever played for ever done that."
Fletcher, one of the most respected players in the league, also said that the incentive pool is not at all uncommon in the NFL. Which is less an excuse of behavior and more a reason for a change in thinking throughout the league. [D.C. Sports Bog]
-- Joe Posnanski, one of the better sportswriters you'll ever read, hypothesizes about bounty systems in other sports and wonders if football violence has made us numb to the concept of "injury payments."
If pitchers were offered bounties to throw at Albert Pujols' head and knock him out for a series, that would be a scandal beyond anything in memory. If we found out that Dwyane Wade was actually offered extra money to hurt Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star Game, he and the people offering the bounty might be suspended for life. Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn't that be one of the great disgraces in the sport's history?
So what does it say about the NFL -- and what does it say about us as football fans -- that this would happen in pro football and there would be a vague, "Eh, everybody does it, everybody's trying to hurt everybody in football anyway" reaction from so many?
That there are so many people willing to cast a blind eye to the idea of a coach paying a player to injure another player ... well, that's why things need to change. This isn't black-and-white.
Football is violent by nature, but as my Shutdown Corner colleague Maggie Hendricks (who also edits Cagewriter, Yahoo's MMA blog) told me about ultimate fighting, "The rules/codes in MMA are very closely followed. There are only two fighters and one ref in a cage, so it's hard to get away with anything. Guys that do throw cheap shots or hold chokes too long lose their jobs pretty much immediately. I can think of just two who have done it, and they suffered financially because of it.
"Now, the UFC pays bonuses for Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night, but knocking a guy out is part of what you should do at your job. It's not outside the bounds of the rules, like with the bounties."
And that's the difference. Whether you like boxing or not; whether you like MMA or not, there are absolute rules in both sports that involve knocking people out for the bigger part of a purse. In the NFL, such actions are not only against the rules of the game, but the practice of paying players to disable their comrades is not covered in the financial structure of the collective bargaining agreement. The line isn't in the same place. [Joe Blogs]