Eisenberg: Bountygate Deserves Harshest Punishment


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My guess is Goodell will do just that. He surely understands this kind of behavior is a malicious threat to his game on so many levels.

The league has come around tardily to the importance of player safety – years too late, honestly -- but at least things are moving in the right direction now. The emphasis on concussions and fines for illegal hits are all part of an important movement to make the game less dangerous.

(I laugh at the people who claim they're turning it into flag football. Let's let them stand on the sideline for an afternoon, right at the line of scrimmage. Let them see the shattering collisions that unfold on every snap. They won't call it flag football anymore.)

Obviously, a plot to injure opponents runs counter to the concept of player safety. Sorry, Saints, your timing is really bad here.

It's also the very definition of unsporting. Pro football is a game, not real combat. We understand that it's intensely physical, and that inflicting pain and establishing physical dominance are crucial parts of it. But injuries should merely be an unfortunate natural byproduct, not a goal, and anyone who doesn't understand that is a p-u-n-k and needs to sit for awhile. Maybe they will figure it out.

Teams in the NFL – like those in any sport – need to be likeable. This can't be emphasized enough. The whole business of sports is based on the fact that fans have rooting interests and see fit to invest their emotions and money, not necessarily in that order.

The last thing the NFL wants is a situation where it is asking fans to root for a team of guys who are going out and trying to injure opponents. No one wants to root for that. You can't sell that. Fans are turned off by it.

The people in the Saints' sales and marketing offices are going to have the toughest jobs in pro football in the coming year.

When the story broke last week, fans of every team, including the Ravens, wondered if their guys also indulged in such abhorrent behavior, hoping against hope that it wasn't so. The story is still developing, so conclusions are premature, but it appears the Saints were outliers, far more organized and intent on injuring than anyone else.

The implications are varied and sweeping. There could be legal ramifications. The league needs to draw a clear line, set the right standard. This stuff strikes at the very heart of what makes the NFL so competitive and popular. It warrants the harshest level of punishment.

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