Ever since the news about the came out on Friday, quite a few players and coaches -- current and former -- from around the league have commented on the situation. Many comments have suggested that this type of thing is a regular occurrence, and others have downplayed the relevance of it. Overall, the general consensus is that bounties are common in NFL circles, although several players, ' bounty programincluding members of the , have denied that this type of thing happens with their team.
One of the teams that have been looked at very closely since this news broke is the Tennessee Titans. This is because Gregg Williams, the man in the middle of this mess, was with the Oilers/Titans from 1990-2000. When he left Tennessee after the 2000 season, current Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was tabbed as the Titans' new defensive coordinator.
There have been accusations from Tony Dungy of the Titans having bounties on Peyton Manning, but it appears that any bounties that existed in Tennessee were strictly between the players. The only things Schwartz gave out for big hits, according to a report, were limited to baseball bats and boxing gloves.
Players said Schwartz handed out baseball bats or boxing gloves for big hits, but Schulters said teammates raised the stakes with what some of them recalled "money games."
The key thing here is that Schwartz was not giving out money for big hits and wasn't involved in the bounty program. I'm sure some may not see the difference because big hits are still being rewarded at the end of the day, but there is a massive difference in the eyes of the NFL. The reason the Saints are looking at a massive punishment is because money was changing hands, and some of it was coming from coaches like Williams, who was involved in the program. The argument can't be made that the salary cap is being circumvented by handing out a bat or gloves (hence why game balls are given out after games), but when actual money is involved, there is an issue.
I think Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio had the best analogy when he compared this whole thing to college players getting helmet stickers. Many teams (most notably Ohio State) give out stickers for a variety of things that take place on and off the field. Bounties are basically the NFL's version of helmet stickers, which is why I honestly don't think this is as big of a deal as some are making it out to be. It is big in the sense that the Saints got caught and will be severely punished, but on all levels of football players are often rewarded or singled out for making big hits. It's just that in the NFL the players (and coaches in the case of the Saints) can afford to reward each other with money. Right about now, I'm betting the Saints are looking back and regretting that they didn't just go with helmet stickers or boxing gloves.