Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bounties in the CFL? You Betcha!

The scandal that has engulfed the National Football League regarding bounties being placed on opposing players by members of the New Orleans Saints has reached Canada. Adriano Belli and a pair of unnamed current CFL players have come out and said that similar bounty programs can be found in the CFL.

What is happening in CFL locker rooms differs from what occurred in New Orleans because that involved a coach, Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, being at the forefront and that doesn't seem to be the case in the CFL.

Players pooling cash is nothing new; I specifically remember the Edmonton Eskimos Secondary talking about a pool they had where the first person to get an interception would receive the payout. The Esks went nearly half a season back in 2010 without registering a pick, and this was there way of having a little fun with it.

I don't have a big problem with players pooling money together, even if it is doled out to those who lay vicious hits on a Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, etc. I don't think any person can say they didn't get excited when Jamall Johnson laid that bone-jarring hit on Buck Pierce last season. It was one of the highlights of the year. Would it surprise anyone if we later found out that the Ti-Cat Defense put a bounty on Pierce? Would it make the hit less spectacular? The answer to both those questions is no. Pierce has an injury history, so it makes sense for teams to target him. It was done legally, and if Johnson won himself a few extra dollars because of it, I don't see the problem.

But where bounty pools step over the line is if the payout is given for intentionally injuring an opponent. Football is a violent game without adding the intent to injure into it. The Johnny Sears hit on Steven Jyles last season is where a vicious hit crosses the line. The aftermath also crossed the line, when Rob Murphy and Taylor Robertson both vowed revenge for the hit. It is impossible to know whether the Bombers had a bounty of Jyles, but I think it can be reasonably assumed that the Argos were putting one on Sears. That type of stuff has no place in the game.

Concerns over player safety are at an all-time high, and the CFL is doing everything it can to make the game safer. That's a noble cause, and one worth pursuing. But no matter what the league does, football will always be a violent game. Hits like Johnson's will continue to make highlight reels, and players across the league will pool money together to give extra incentive to make those hits. We may not like the idea of bounties being placed on opposing players, but we all still get out of our seats when hits like Johnson's or Carlos Thomas's on Geroy Simon get made, and as long as that is the case, players will have a reason to want to make them.

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