While free agency and Peyton Manning may be at the top of the National Football League’s popularity list at the moment, it will soon take a backseat to ‘BountyGate’ and hopefully very soon.
The NFL Owners’ meetings are scheduled to take place in Florida March 25 through the 27th and it is widely speculated that Commissioner Roger Goodell would like to have his discipline handed out before then. There are numerous people and several teams that could be impacted by the conclusions that Goodell ultimately comes.
You have of course the New Orleans Saints where this whole thing began. They need to know who, if any players will be suspended and for how long. Same goes for their head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis. The St. Louis Rams have a very vested interest in what Goodell rules because their defensive coordinator is Gregg Williams who has already fallen on his sword in admitting the whole thing was accurate.
The Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, where Williams coached prior to his stint in New Orleans, could also face some discipline should the NFL find similar activities were going on.
There is however, one other team that I believe has a very strong interest in Mr. Goodell’s decision and that team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. At this time, the Steelers have not been implicated in any form of paying for an opponent’s injury and they are not expected to be either. Their interest deals with the discipline that will come down from Goodell.
As any member of the Steelers Nation can tell you we have been the poster children for Goodell’s assault on the violence and illegal hits he claims are ruining the game. He has fined players like James Harrison and Ryan Clark ridiculously large sums of money and has even suspended Harrison a game. I’m not going to say that every hit Harrison has laid on the opposition has been ‘legal,’ but what I will say is that without question he has been targeted and is under a microscope that no other player in the league can relate to.
The Steelers want to see if Goodell puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to ridding the game of helmet-to-helmet hits and behavior such as ‘bounties’ which the Saints most notably have partaken in.
My best guess is that Gregg Williams will receive an eight-game suspension and Sean Payton will receive four. If he can be proven to be the ringleader, Saints’ LB Jonathan Vilma is looking at four to six games as well.
Roger Goodell cannot afford to blow this opportunity to finally put the hammer down on someone other than Steelers in his quest for player safety and in the name of ‘protecting the shield.’ Anything less than the penalties suggested above would elicit a very loud response from the Men of Steel both on the field and off.