In light of what the Saints have been found guilty of, well, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.
I don't know about many of you guys, but I played the game through high school, starting my junior and senior years. I didn't play well, but I have an affinity for this game, and it helped shape me into the person I am. I love the game and everything about it--the struggle, the physicality, and battle of you against them, and whether or not you can beat the guy across from you for the greater good of the team.
The New Orleans Saints have stained the entire game, at every level. It's one thing to see a high school kid lose his cool and try to pick a fight, or watch a Pee Wee league coach think he's Bill Belichick and make an ass out of himself on the sideline.
It's another thing entirely when a professional organization, from the coach all the way down, intentionally sends a message that it's okay to try and intentionally hurt players on another team, for a bounty.
At that point, you cease being a team and become a collection of mercenaries.
Roger Goodell must act, swiftly and as violently as the Saints players who tried to permanently injure their, for lack of a better term, brothers in arms.
So this is what I would propose:
1. A two year suspension without pay for Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, and any other coach who was aware of or condoned the bounty hunter policy.
2. A one million dollar fine for Tom Benson, to be donated to a charity that helps former NFL players who were injured as a result of their playing days.
3. The loss of the franchise tag for the Saints for 2012.
4. A forfeiture of their first and second round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Those picks will be awarded to Arizona, Minnesota, and Indianapolis.
5. An eight game suspension for any player involved.
I know a lot of folks think that they should be forced to give up their Super Bowl trophy and all that stuff, but I think that is a toothless punishment. It doesn't work in college football, and it wouldn't work here.
But a message must be sent, loud and clear, by the commissioner. This isn't about the Vikings losing the NFC Championship game, this is about the integrity of the game, and violation of an unwritten rule. There's nothing wrong with playing the game hard and clean, and everyone accepts the fact that in the course of a game, injuries happen. But this is on an entirely different level.
I never, ever played for a coach that said "hey, try and intentionally hurt player X", and I daresay that any coach I ever played for would've benched me or anyone else on my team.
Yet Peyton and Williams openly encouraged their players to go out and hurt their opponent--potentially end their career and affect their long term health--for what amounts to milk money for an NFL player.
It's disgusting, and their is no defense for this. Goodell needs to deal with this quickly and to a level that ensures this doesn't happen again.