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Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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Gazzolo Column: No one to blame but Hernandez himself

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:47 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

The genie may still be in the bottle, but the lid is about to be blown off the NFL.

Barrett Green became the first former player to file a lawsuit and use the term “bounty” in his case.

It was only a matter of time before this happened. While the Saints may not be named in this first suit, clearly they have their hand in the cookie jar.

That is why commissioner Roger Goodell punished the Saints so hard after the franchise refused to stop a pay-for-pain program despite numerous warnings.

Goodell feared the day when some former player limped into a court room and blamed the NFL, a team and individuals for allowing such a system to take place.

Green became that player and some day was Monday.

A former linebacker for both the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, Green claims the knee injury that ended his career in 2004 came as a result of a bounty program.

The suit calls the hit that knocked Green out as “unusual, outrageous, and an obvious cheap shot.”

Now he wants to be compensated for his pain.

Football is a rough sport, but now former players are finding ways to show that he doesn’t have to be that dangerous. Or at least they are trying to find the guys who make it more dangerous than it should be.

It was easy for Saints fans to get upset with Goodell and blame him for all their woes. Makes sense. He was judge, jury and executioner when it came to handing down the punishment.

Head coach Sean Payton was forced to sit out the season. Coaches were suspended, players as well.

While some won their appeals, it didn’t matter. The damage was already done to the Saints and last season proved to be a lost one.

Thanks to Goodell, the club went from title contender to missing the playoffs.

All this while saying he was taking the action for the good of player safety.

Forget that. This was about money, nothing more and nothing less.

It was Goodell and the rest of the NFL trying to hold on to their cash cow for as long as they can.

Bounty talk and paying for big hits has always been pro football’s dirty little secret. The Saints brought it out in the open.

But don’t for a minute think Goodell wasn’t worried about this first bounty lawsuit and what it might mean.

If it was really all about player safety there is no way anyone in the league would be talking about playing an extra two regular seaon games. Not at the price that is being paid every week by players and their bodies.

Yet the league would like to expand the schedule.

No, Goodell was always worried about facing players in court who claim the league did not do enough to protect them from themselves.

The NFL is already in that kind of fight when it comes to ex-players believing they were forced to play games despite their conditions. Those cases are starting to get to the interesting point and now this.

Green points the finger at the Washington Redskins, claiming the team had a well-known bounty program going at the time of his injury.

An assistant coach on that team was none other than Gregg Williams, the man front and center of the storm in New Orleans.

We all witnessed what happened in that fallout. Williams was sent packing, Payton was suspended for a year, players lost games and the team lost a season.

By the time all the stuff had finally hit the fan, the biggest losers were those who root for the Saints. They lost an entire season and a championship contender was left in the middle of the pack.

That is still nothing compared to what might happen to the game by the time all the lawyers get through.

Already fighting more than a few battles over injuries and the treatment of ex-players, the last thing the league wanted to do was to fight on another front when it comes to injuries.

Green’s lawsuit won’t likely be the last when it comes to bounty talk.

The Saints are clearly on the clock.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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