NFL fans have all been following the issue with the New Orleans Saints and the ‘bounty’ program (I refuse to use the ‘gate’ word) and, in particular, Packers fans have been following the impact it has on the team because of Anthony Hargrove’s suspension of eight games.

There was no doubt, in my mind at least, that Hargrove as well as other players deserved penalties including fines and suspensions for participating in a program that could have cause serious, even career-ending, injury to fellow players. I have been harsh in my opinion of Sean Payton and the Saints’ management as well as on the players themselves.

Something about this situation that I learned brought me up short though.

I didn’t know a lot about Anthony Hargrove’s background. I knew he played for the Saints and I knew he played in the NFC Championship game wherein #4 was beaten to a pulp. Watching that game, I could see how hard Brett was hit, and it gave me great joy at the time. (Yeah, I’m a hater. No, just a really strong ‘disliker’.) Now, it really doesn’t pain me even knowing about the bounty program, because while those hits were very hard, they were, for the most part, clean and those that were not were called as such.

So I didn’t realize that Hargrove has struggled with substance abuse, was suspended for an entire year because of it; and in a very non-Johnny Jolly like fashion (although Johnny, happily, seems to be on the right path now), rehabbed successfully and returned to the playing field. Hargrove wasn’t a first round draft pick. He’s had something of a journeyman’s career as do many NFL players. On Twitter, he seems like a nice guy and excited to be in Green Bay; I take that with a grain of salt, but he doesn’t seem to be someone along the lines of Warren Sapp.

As much as I like to tease and pick on Jason Wilde, he’s the one that made me stop and think seriously from the players’ point of view why they would ever agree to participate in such stupidity, especially Anthony Hargrove.

Think about it. You’re a semi-marginal NFL player. You’ve lost one season (and a significant salary to most of us) already because you made mistakes in your life. Your years of playing time are limited by age and injury, the window could indeed close at any time. You have family depending on you for financial support. You might not be sure what kind of future awaits you after you leave the field for good (as so many of the guys seem to struggle on some level).

So you have a coach. He’s not a very nice guy, he knows how to push a defense to perform and has done this with more than one team. He knows all of the issues you face and he knows how to push guys’ buttons (it’s one of the things coaches have to know how to do, after all). He tells you to participate, he throws some money at you. And then, when the NFL gets wind of it, he tells you to lie about it.

Despite what I like to think I would do (tell Gregg Williams to go *blank* himself), if I were in the same situation, with the same pressures and the same short window of having a career, I can’t honestly say that I would make a different choice than Anthony Hargrove did. I hope I would; but I think I finally might understand what would make a player not only participate in such a scheme, but then lie about it later when under pressure to tell all.

It’s a lot more complicated than I thought.

But I still hate Sean Payton.

 

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