An NFL investigation revealed that the Saints’ coaches and players were involved in a bounty system that paid money to defensive players who intentionally injured opposing players between 2009 (when they won the Super Bowl) and 2011.
League security found that between 22 and 27 players were directly involved in this bounty scheme that was directly administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The league reviewed a report that was 50,000 pages long, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and the league could administer fines, suspensions of players or coaches and forfeited draft picks.
“The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,” Roger Goodell said in a press release. “The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity. It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.”
Based on Goodell’s quote, it seems like the league will come down harder on the Saints than they did the Patriots for Spygate, and many pundits agree. The report implies that head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew about the bounty program and did nothing to stop it.
Given the league’s toughened stance on concussions and overall player safety, the Saints’ bounty program should, and probably will, be dealt with harshly. The loss of multiple draft picks will likely come, as could the suspension of coaches like Williams. Expect the NFL to punish the Saints so that no team ever thinks about doing something so awful and heinous again.
Major League Baseball has finally announced its new playoff format, adding a wild card team to each league and expanding the number of teams to reach the postseason to 10.
The two wild card teams from each league will play each other in a one game playoff to determine who opposes the top overall team in each league. Since the schedule for this season was already set, the Division Series will be a little different this year. To eliminate a travel day, the lower seeds will host the first two AL and NLDS games, with the higher seed hosting the final three games to eliminate an off day before a potential game five of a division series. It will return to a 2-2-1 format in 2013. Teams from the same division would also now be able to play each other in the LDS. MLB also announced that divisional ties will no longer be determined by tiebreakers or coin flips, but by one game playoffs as well.
The wild card system was instituted in the 1994 season and first implemented in 1995 with great success. Pennant races now involve more teams and more cities will benefit from that kind of excitement going forward. It is yet to be seen if expanded playoffs will water down the excitement of the postseason, but it will undoubtedly make the regular season more intriguing.
Celtics Trade Talk Heats Up
We’ll have two weeks to see if the Celtics end up trading Rajon Rondo, but Boston is almost certainly trying. The problem, according to the Boston Herald, is that GM Danny Ainge is having a hard time getting equal value in return. Chris Mannix went so far to say that Boston wants a franchise player for Rondo. David Aldridge of TNT says that Rondo is not going anywhere and coach Doc Rivers said that a Rondo deal is not being discussed.
That being said, everyone expects the Celtics to be very active before the trade deadline in some way and Ray Allen has been the most discussed Celtics player thus far. The New York Daily News reports that Ainge is going after Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks and other young players, with Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all in play. To top that off, the Lakers and Jazz are very interested in Rondo.
Magic Still Trying To Keep Howard
Orlando is still trying to convince Dwight Howard to stay and is trying to get players to improve the Magic defense. Rumored players going to Orlando this week have included Steve Nash, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, and the New York Daily News reported today that Amar’e Stoudemire is virtually unmovable, ruling out a possible trade with the Knicks unless New York is willing to part with both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.
Decision Time For Wilson Chandler
Denver still holds the rights for Wilson Chandler, who was not signed to an offer sheet by any team despite Toronto’s reported interest. This leaves Chandler with two options: re-sign with the Nuggets for the long term (potentially in a sign-and-trade) or sit out the rest of the season and become a restricted free agent this summer.
Sessions Is In Session…
With Kyrie Irving really thriving in Cleveland, backup Ramon Sessions is someone who could really boost a team needing a starter like the Lakers. Alex Kennedy reports that the Cavs are pursuing their options. With Raymond Felton really struggling in Portland, perhaps the Blazers make a run at Sessions, who is cap friendly and would keep Jamal Crawford in a bench role the Blazers would prefer.