That play gets to the heart of what people need to think about as they digest coverage of my former coach Gregg Williams putting bounties on opposing players. What people have to understand is that the culture in the NFL for defensive players is seek and destroy. That is the mentality.
Some players are pure tacklers and will wrap a guy up, and that’s how they do it every time. Then there are hitters -- “lumber layers” and “wood bringers.” These are all names for guys who knocked the crap out of people. Bounties or not, most of these players were and are trying to tear peoples’ heads off.
And you know what? Football fans love them for it.
Some of the most respected names in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, are there because of that seek and destroy mentality. The first names that come to mind -- Dick Butkus, Sam Huff, Chuck Bednarik. How about Greg Lloyd and Lester Hayes? These guys wanted to hurt you. That was their mentality. It’s man versus man, and they were going to make sure their opponents knew they were the man by game’s end.
So in a culture where it’s an unwritten part of the game to get the best opposing player out of it, that’s what players have done and still do to this day. The fact that there’s such outrage appears to be a bit strange to me.
By no means do I condone intentionally hurting another player, especially for money. But a very fine line exists here.
The mentality that goes along with being a defender in football is that a player’s success makes him a marked man and his popularity makes him a marked man. Defenders understand that if the best player is not in the game, that team’s chances of winning go down dramatically -- and we all know why the game is played. To win.
A harsh reality, sure. But everyone who plays football on both sides of the ball is aware of this. The same goes for offensive players. Running backs and linemen do the exact same thing: They locate the best defensive player every play and they try to get him. There is give and take.
Roger Goodell will discipline the team, or teams, and maybe the coaches and players involved here. But understand this: Bounties or not, football is a war of attrition. Who can hit the hardest for the longest? The ultimate success, personally, in a game is to get the guy you are up against to tap out or quit. To a player, that means all the hard work and preparation paid off and that your opponent didn’t want any more.
That’s why I loved playing the game -- to win as a team and as a player. If I won my battle, then I gave us a chance to win. If I hit guys so hard that they wanted no more, or if by chance got injured on the play, sorry, but it gave my team the advantage.
It’s all part of a full contact sport — and we all know it as players and fans.
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