I now have complete proof that sports really do have oxymoron moments. The NFL had just barely gone through a lockout where one of the main issues was player safety. It appeared that the problem had been solved and was finished.
Then, it was recently discovered and reported that the New Orleans Saints have been using a bounty system that targeted superstar players. It was as simple as this: The defensive coach would put a $10,000 bounty on a certain player, and then whoever took that player out of the game would be given the bounty.
For my beginning argument, why on earth was it the New Orleans Saints who operated under the defensive bounty system? In 2009, the year that the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl and the bounty system was in full swing, the Saints had the 20th-ranked scoring defense in the NFL. They gave up an average of 365 yards per game and 5.5 yards per play, 25th out of 32 teams. The Saints weren't just bad at defense, they probably wouldn't have even been able to keep Tim Tebow from throwing all over them.
However, somehow the Saints managed to secure a spot in the playoffs after losing their prior three games. Then, after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 45-14 and taking out Brett Favre and the Vikings 31-28, the Saints were on their way to the Super Bowl. In that game, the Saints won through their defense, with cornerback Tracy Porter returning an interception 74 yards to seal the Super Bowl victory 31-17.
The reason that the NFL even began investigating the Saints' defense was because of some questionable hits against the Saints' opponents. It seemed that the Saints occasionally played with reckless abandon toward their opponents.
For example, in the divisional game against the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Kurt Warner was harassed by hits from the New Orleans defense and took what Adam Green from Arizona Sports described as "one of the hardest hits you'll ever see in an NFL game," when he was drilled by defensive end Bobby McCray on an interception return.
There was no questioning of the way the Saints played football until the Saints-Vikings game the following week, in which there were several questionable hits against Brett Favre. The first one was with 5:41 remaining in the first quarter; Favre ran a reverse play and handed off to one of the Vikings' wide receivers. Moments later, Favre is smacked by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray. This isn't one of the more noted plays, but it was an illegal hit, and unnecessary as well, against Favre.
Another hit against Favre was with 4:09 left in the third quarter. The Saints came with a heavy rush against Favre and Favre barely managed to get rid of the ball in time. After getting rid of the ball he is first hit by lineman Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove then launches Favre after the hit to the ground, and linebacker Scott Fujita helps cash in on the hit. On the next play, Favre is hit hard again and is temporarily on a "you go high, I'll go low" hit by linemen Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele.
In the fourth quarter, Favre comes back into the game. After a fumble and a Saints touchdown, he begins the march to try and come back from a 28-21 deficit. This time the Saints' pressure doesn't get to him and the Vikings score to tie the game at 28. However, the Vikings couldn't pull in the go-ahead score and the Saints went on to win the game and then their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
In March, the NFL announced that it had evidence that the Saints were operating under a bounty system. It was also reported that before the Saints game against the 49ers this season, the pregame speech made by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams targeted certain players ranging from Alex Smith to backup halfback Kendall Hunter.
The NFL has issued a full-season suspension to Saints' head coach Sean Payton as well as eight games for general manger Mickey Loomis and six games for assistant head coach Joe Vitt. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was also banned from the NFL indefinitely.
As a person who has a love for all that is sports, I would like to say that what the Saints did was wrong and inhumane in the most diabolical way. I honestly think that the NFL is being too kind to the Saints. If I were commissioner of the NFL, I would find it appropriate to also ban head coach Sean Payton indefinitely and suspend Loomis and Vitt for a full season.
There is nothing that could ever change the shame brought to the Saints by this scandal, and I believe that the sources of the problem should be banned from the game of football.
Riley Wheeler is a junior at Fremont High School. His second act as NFL commissioner would be to move the Denver Broncos to Salt Lake City, and also to make April 14 "Tebow Day." If you would like to support his campaign, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.