Though he does opine that Saints defensive coordinator / bounty-scheme mastermind Gregg Williams (above), “should be thrown out of the NFL for life,” the New York Daily News’ Gary Myers suggests, “the No. 1 enemy of the players,” is (drum roll) “the players themselves.”
Not management squeezing them on the last $10,000 on their contracts. Not the coach who makes them run laps for jumping offsides in practice or takes $5,000 out of their pockets for some meaningless indiscretion.
Whether it’s hiding a concussion from the trainers so they can stay on the field and not lose their job to the next man up — even with all the revelations the last few years about the long-term ramifications of head injuries — the players are still stubborn. But as the last few days have revealed these player-on-player crimes, these guys better get smart in a hurry.
The players 20 or 30 years from now who will be crying about the violent culture of the NFL and how the game has not taken care of them, could be the same players who were frothing at the mouth in New Orleans the last three seasons to pick up an extra $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payments doubling or tripling during the playoffs in the sick pay-for-performance program administered by Williams.
It can only be ego, peer pressure or the desire to please the coaches that could lead players to take what is already a brutal sport to another level and intentionally try to harm a member of the fraternity for a few extra bucks.
Aside from ego and peer pressure, it might also be something as quaint as trying to keep a job in a sport where long term contracts aren’t guaranteed and any player who ends up in a defensive coordinator’s doghouse might be deemed instantly replaceable. The number of players who’ve publicly taken a stand against an increasingly violent style of play is somewhat equal to the total sum of fans (or sportswirters) who’ve pledged to boycott the NFL until the game is cleaned up (ie., zero).