Dogged are the bounty hunters

So now cheap shots carry a tidy price-tag.

Last weekend, the bounty scandal blew up in the face of the NFL. First, the league itself found the New Orleans Saints guilty of offering illegal incentives to injure opposing players. Before long, newspaper investigations had linked three more franchises to an ugly practise with a cute name; Pay-For-Pain.

Let’s scan the menu, see what kind of a bang you get for your buck; $1,000 for a ‘cart-off’, where your opponent has to be helped off the field; $1,500 for a ‘knockout’, where he doesn’t come back.

What about the specials? Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma kicked in an extra $10k if any of his defensive team-mates could deliver the hit that put Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game when the sides met in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

By our calculations it would have been cheaper to have him killed. But let’s not give these guys any ideas.

We need not be shocked. In a sport juiced on aggression, where most of the players will get their hands on the ball only after a calamity of accidents; big hits are a legitimate currency. There certainly has been no surprise from within the sport. Favre knows the story. “That’s football. If they can drill you and get you out, they will.”

But at a time when nearly 400 former players are suing the NFL over damage to their health from concussions suffered during their careers, and when at least 20 ex-players have been diagnosed with chronic brain trauma, several of whom committed suicide; isn’t it extraordinarily callous that players would openly accept payment for injuring each other?

Whatever the culture in the game, it’s as disgusting a sports story as I’ve heard in a while.


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