Ahead of the Curve
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Feel bad for the boys in The Big Easy?  Don't.

The New Orleans Saints brain-trust got off relatively easy with the fines & suspensions levied against them by the NFL on Wednesday.  It coulda' been worse.

Sean Payton and staff can do the suspensions standing on their heads.  They're all rich.  After Sean's year long vacation (he's gotta' have a boat), he gets to come back to a $5 million (?) salaried job.  Same goes for the Suit.  The assistants suffer in the $200,000+ salary range.  And since the key player punishments will have to clear through the NFLPA, don't expect they'll be hurting too much either.

Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are rich too.  But all the money in the world can't make the lingering aches & pains from that brutal NFC playoffs (2010) go away quick enough.

The Saints should consider themselves lucky that none of their bounty-hit victims suffered more serious harm than they did.  But then assessment of the full damage from such wicked blows goes on for a lifetime.

They should also consider themselves lucky Roger Goodell & Company didn't take away their Lombardi Trophy.  It's never been done before but then such a widespread, entrenched, disturbing scheme of football strategy has never been uncovered before, either.

Asterisking / striking a name from the record book (and devaluing tons of Super Bowl merchandise) would work a great deterrent if you're real serious about removing dirty, dangerous, dumb acts from the game.

Not a big stretch to write the Saints championship-pathway in 2009-10 was aided by the non-contractual, bounty bonus program.

In the two Saints' games that've gotten the most attention since Bounty-gate broke, post season versus Cardinals & Vikings, game officials and the NFL were pleased overall with the job they'd done in assessing penalties and later fines.

I've got faith in what NFL officials do on the field and in post-game fine-assessment.  They're not perfect, but then who is?  Trying to deter overly-dangerous hits while preserving the rough & tumble nature of the game is no easy task.

But even if officiated to perfection, leveling penalties doesn't necessarily restore a level playing-field.  A cheap-shot may draw a penalty but also takes its toll on the receiver of that illegal hit, a loss that marching-off ten yards cannot restore.

And imagine the bad shots that go unnoticed when you have "22 to 27" suspected players working the scheme (Schefter / ESPN / 3-22).  No longer the rare, random reckless hit from one player's poor, spur-of-the-moment judgment, but a game long series of pre-meditated shots.  It's why such a mental state raises the level of culpability in criminal matters.

Apologists complain the severity of the punishment will hamstring defensive players.  That's cute.  The only two things that'll continue to impede defense guys in the NFL are, 1) smart pocket passers that gas opponents, and 2) their refusal to learn the lost art of TACKLING.

Their other line of complaint: bounties have been around forever and exist unpunished on other teams.  That's the Richard Nixon defense: everyone else did it, Nixon just got caught.  That's cute too.  Richard's crew would've made Tony Soprano's look progressive.

I don't want to see the Saints title tainted.  The city of New Orleans, State of Louisiana were a very fitting, deserving winner of the 2010 title game against the Colts.  And I do believe the entire Saints organization can once again make the NFL proud.

I do want to see acceptance of blame, something Nixon could never convey.  For a coach who thought so much of rule-adherence that he threw a sideline hissy-fit upon hearing the Vikes had 12 men on the field in 2010 (NFC), he can easily oblige us.

And if there was any doubt in anyone's mind that the NFL is America's big game, they can lay that silly thought to final rest.  Even in March pro gridiron news makes waves.

Steven Keys

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