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Steinberg: NFL never rests

Steinberg Says

March 24, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

So it is a weekend in March with "March Madness" having the equivalent of their semifinals for the NCAA men's basketball championships. Countless millions of folks across the country, some of whom never watch a college game, have filled out brackets with their predictions.

The amount of money changing hands in the next eight days is enough to finance a small country for a year. Spring training is drawing to a close with Opening Day not far away. The NBA is running it's accelerated schedule, with games being played more frequently than ever before. And what has been the dominant topic of interest in media and around the water cooler? The NFL, which does not open training camps for four months.

I was interviewed on more talk radio shows this past week than any time since the Super Bowl, and here were the topics:

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Bounty-gate. The NFL discovered that assistant Greg Williams, who recently departed defensive coordinator duties at the New Orleans Saints to head to St. Louis, had instituted a program that financially rewarded any player who "knocked an offensive player out of the game."

While NFL players frequently reward each other for hard hits, this was an actual coach and organization inciting its players for injuring an opponent.

Yes, the NFL is a contact game, and no we're not advocating putting quarterbacks in a rocking chair or a dress, but the game is dangerous enough without paying players to injure others. This type of team sanction to the most excessive of behavior, a license to maim, sets a horrific model that would trickle down to collegiate and high school football.

Players are in denial anyway and will play until they break down every joint in the body long-term. The recent ESPN Outside the Lines interview with former Chicago Bear Super Bowl quarterback Jim McMahon, who has lost his short-term memory and is confused everyday, illustrates the danger.

Commissioner Roger Goodell needed to send a strong message, and to his credit he did. He fined the team $500,000, indefinitely suspended Williams, suspended head coach Sean Payton for a season, general manager Mickey Loomis for half a season, and took second-round draft picks away for the next two years. Also, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games of the 2012 season.

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