As we all now know (unless you’ve been living under a rock or been busy sobbing your heart out that Tim Tebow will be polishing shoes for associating with Rexy Ryan), Roger Goodell announced the sanctions against the Saints Sinners for issuing a “bounty” on various players including He Who Must Not Be Named and our very own Aaron Rodgers, financial reward depending on level of injury sustained.

This investigation has been ongoing for some time, but only came to light in recent weeks. The rumored punishment was severe but in no way was I expecting what was actually handed down. I was, however, very pleased by it. It’s time that snake Sean Payton was exposed for who and what he really is for all to see. Then there’s the little window that shone on who Drew Brees might really be . And if Jeremy Shockey did play snitch (which he didn’t, of course, despite Warren ‘I’m the hypocrite that almost ended Chad Clifton’s career’ Sapp’s assertion) then I would stand up and applaud a player I frankly loathe. Finally, Roger decided to lay down the law instead of pussyfooting around as he usually does. (This, for example.) Of course, it seems obvious given the recent disclosures by many former players that bounty systems have existed since time began that Roger was really punishing the lying and cover-up, not the bounty system itself, but I’m okay with that – lying and covering up are definitely punishable transgressions. It’s also important to note that the NFL is facing a lawsuit over this issue, which may have forced Roger in to having a backbone for once; still, I’ll give him credit.

But.

There are a couple of things that trouble me about this whole business.

First? While it is laudable to try and improve the level of safety in the game by actively discouraging bounty programs, and assigning large fines for deliberate helmet to helmet hits, let’s face it, football is never going to be ‘safe’ to play. If it is, I’ll quit watching because, essentially, it will be flag football and that’s much more fun to play than it is to watch. Part of the allure of football is the powerful way in which it is played; the display of finesse and sheer physicality seen when those who truly excel at the game are at their best. (Yeah, the tight pants don’t hurt either. I’m a girl. Sue me.) While neither ‘Bountygate’ (As an aside, WTH is with assigning the word ‘gate’ to the end of every scandal? The Watergate was a HOTEL, people) or the enforcement on helmet to helmet are diluting the game, in my opinion, the NFL does have to be careful to walk a fine line on this issue. Football is a violent sport, and it’s essentially going to have to stay that way to be interesting to watch. Don’t go down the slippery slope too far, Commissioner.

Second? Has it escaped anyone’s notice that Saints’ PLAYERS were participating in this little moneymaking scheme? Indeed, it has not. Chris Kluwe, for one, has been pretty upfront about his feelings on this matter. The NFL has said they will be assigning consequences to many of the players involved. It’s sad and somewhat inexplicable why players who are very well compensated would try to do everything they can to ensure someone leaves the field in any manner short of a body bag for a (relatively speaking) few bucks. I get that many players come from backgrounds where there was little or no money, but that doesn’t explain the motivation. In fact, it almost seems these players who gleefully participated were doing so more for the sheer enjoyment of hurting someone than for the money itself. As Bill Johnson said, the last thing the NFL needs is an image of their players being ‘psychotic’ or ‘criminal’. That perception is already out there to a certain degree and does not need to be made worse.

Then, of course, there’s the fact the NFLPA squealed like five year old girls at a birthday party when confronted during negotiations last year with the prospect of an eighteen game season. One of the reasons offered was the potential for additional injuries. While that does make sense, it strikes me as more than a little odd that there’s apparently a large group of guys that don’t really care how much someone gets hurt as long as it pads their wallets (remember, Gregg Williams ran this scheme on at least three teams over the years – that’s a lot of players) yet the NFLPA is screaming for increased safety in play, no extension of the season, concern about the impact of play on the players after retirement, and so on. Sorry, but the next time George Atallah starts spouting off about the dangers inherent in a longer season, I’m going to tell him to put a sock in it. Try telling the players to play smart, clean football and still win without causing intentional injury, George.

Let me be clear, I’m glad the NFL is taking seriously the issue of player safety. To maintain its popularity and image, professional football needs to be played cleanly and with good sportsmanship for the most part. We all want great players to have long careers both for themselves and our enjoyment in watching them.

Just don’t take all the ‘fun and games’ out of the game, okay Roger?