Bad defensive scheme

Why is NFL players' union fighting for the 'bounty' hunters in its midst?
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith – shown grabbing Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman in 2009 – is one of four players punished for participating in a pay-for-pain bounty system.

At least one former pro football player, Chicago’s Dave Duerson, seemed to think his brain would be useful to science. So he took care to shoot himself in the chest.

Former San Diego great Junior Seau did the same thing this past week; though he didn’t expressly leave his brain for research, his family has chosen to do it.

Medical experts do say that repeated blows to the head, such as those which football players endure, might result in such things as dementia and depression.

Yet, even as the league and its fans mourn the passing of legendary linebacker Seau, consider this incongruity: The NFL players’ union is fighting the suspension of several New Orleans Saints for their involvement in a cash-for-injuries scheme.

Four current or former New Orleans Saints were suspended this week by league Commissioner Roger Goodell for their part in the team’s “bounty” program, in which players were offered cash for injuring opposing players.

The harshest penalty went to linebacker Jonathan Vilma – barred, without pay, for the entire upcoming 2012 season. Vilma allegedly offered a $10,000 bounty to anyone injuring opposing star quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009 playoffs.

One would think other players would support stiff measures taken against players who are trying to get others injured. Football is their livelihood, after all.

But no. Various players took to Twitter to whine about Vilma’s punishment – and the players’ association is actually supporting Vilma.

The union mentality – protecting all members no matter what, even if they targeted other members for injury – trumps everything, even player safety. Interesting.

Also very interesting: According to Sports Illustrated, one of the punished players, Scott Fujita, a member of the players’ association’s executive committee, “has spoken out in the past about the need for the league to do a better job of protecting players.” We’ll see what happens now that the cleat’s on the other foot.

In truth, if a one-year ban is all Vilma gets, he’s gotten off lightly. In the real world, if you offer money to someone to injure someone else, that’s called a felony.

The other players and their association ought to consider what it is they’re backing.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon