During a conference call with the Detroit Lions media, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter made some problematic off-hand (no pun intended) comments about Matthew Stafford and his injury. Koetter, it seems, suggested that the Buccaneers will go after and specifically target Stafford’s injured throwing hand:
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter in a conference call was asked how things change when a QB’s dealing with a hand injury: “We try to get ahold of his hand”— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 6, 2017
It’s hard to pull true meaning and sincerity from just eight words during a phone call, but if Koetter was being honest, this looks bad from the NFL’s point of view. The league has been desperately trying to prove that player safety is among their highest priorities, and if one of their head coaches is specifically telling the media that they’re going to target an injury, it obviously gives the opposite message.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell isn’t buying it, though. When asked to respond to the comments, Caldwell quickly dismissed them as “in jest,” hoping to move onto another topic by asking for the next question. When a reporter asked how he could know Koetter was joking, Caldwell was again brief in his response and simply said, “I know him.”
Whether Koetter was joking or not, it’s not a good look for the Buccaneers organization. If Stafford plays this week and suffers further injury to that hand, Tampa Bay could certainly be accused of targeting an injury. Back in 2012, the New Orleans Saints suffered major penalties—including suspensions to their defensive coordinator and head coach—for a bounty system that rewarded players monetarily for injuring their opponent.
Koetter’s comments are far from any new “Bountygate” scandal, but it should garner the attention of the league if anything else comes from it.