Senate to hold hearing on bounties
The elaborate bounty system employed by the New Orleans Saints has attracted the attention of the U.S. Senate.
Senator Dick Durbin (D. Ill.) is forming a Judiciary Committee to examine bounties in professional football and other major sports amid the news that Saints players received cash bonuses for injuring opponents.
Durbin, the assistant Senate majority leader, said he wants to look into whether federal law should make such bounty systems a crime.
"Let's be real basic about it here," Durbin told ESPN.com. "If this activity were taking place off of a sporting field, away from a court, nobody would have a second thought (about whether it's wrong). 'You mean, someone paid you to go out and hurt someone?' It goes way beyond the rules of any sporting contest, at least team contest, to intentionally inflict harm on another person for a financial reward."
Durbin, a three-term elected official who is up for re-election this fall, announced his intentions a day after the Saints received severe penalties for their role in a bounty system ran by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended all of next season, general manager Mickey Loomis was barred for half of 2012, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt received a six-game ban. The team also forfeited two second-round draft picks.
Some Saints players may also receive suspensions as a result. According to the league, Saints defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any player who knocked then-Vikings QB Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game.
Durbin isn't sure when the hearing will happen, but said it could be in two to three weeks.
Brees ‘speechless' over Payton suspension
Saints quarterback Drew Brees needs an explanation.
He's not alone.
The team Brees has led for the past six years was punished severely on Wednesday for participating in a bounty system under the watch of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
"I am speechless," Brees wrote on his Twitter account. "Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment."
Payton was suspended for the 2012 season without pay. Williams, now the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, was suspended indefinitely. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was fined and suspended for eight games, and the team forfeited its second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts.
Also, there is a strong possibility that players such as linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who reportedly played a significant role in the bounty program, will also be disciplined.
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said the team has to live with the ruling, but took issue with how the players are being portrayed.
"We play a violent game," Greer told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "So that is, my spirit and my soul is moving me to words to say that people are painting us as mercenaries for hire. They are painting us as thugs. We're fathers, we're professionals, and we are men.
"We have to live with it. But the punishment that was imposed, it seems as if they are trying to destroy our season. They are trying to take away our leaders, take away our leadership. But it's not going to happen. We are New Orleans. We will be strong, we will get through this, we will fight through this, and we will win. It's not gonna happen."
As the team's leader, Brees has a personal interest in what happens to the franchise he helped build into a perennial Super Bowl contender. The team will likely turn to either Pete Carmichael or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to run the team in Payton's absence.
Ironically, Spagnuolo was hired nine weeks ago to replace Williams, after having been fired after three seasons as head coach of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams, meanwhile, hired Williams as new head coach Jeff Fisher's defensive coordinator, and will now have to find a replacement.
These will be much more to come in the Saints universe. For now, many NFL players have weighed in on the decision.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, no stranger to league discipline, simply tweeted: "OMG! That's unreal!"
Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy applauded the ruling: "I commend Commissioner Goodell on his discipline of the NO Saints. Coaches and front office should be held to a higher standard than players."
Oakland Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry thought the punishment was "a little harsh," while Steelers safety Ryan Clark offered a more personal response.
"Regardless of what people think of him that don't know him Greg Williams changed the course of my football career. I am forever grateful!" Clark tweeted.
Finally, there was some levity, provided by Rams' safety Quintin Mikell.
"This Will Get Rid [of] Any Bounty In The NFL...I'm Throwing Out My Bounty Paper Towels Just To Be Safe!!"
Forte "disrespected" by Bears' signing of Bush
Matt Forte's rocky relationship with the Bears became even more strained after the team signed former Raider Michael Bush to a four-year deal Thursday.
Forte turned down a contract offer from the Bears before last season, then was putting together the best season of his career before a knee injury sidelined him for the final four games of 2011. He was given the team's franchise tag March 2, a move he said was fine as long as it led to a long-term deal.
However, the addition of Bush to the backfield stoked Forte's simmering issues with the front office, which he hoped would be resolved with new general manager Phil Emery taking over for Jerry Angelo on Jan. 28.
Forte tweeted on Thursday: "There's only so many times a man that has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last...."
Since coming to the Bears as a second-round pick in 2008, Forte has 4,233 rushing yards. He's also added 1,985 receiving yards.
When he was designated as the franchise player, he was wary that the team would use it just to hold his rights for another season and prevent him from entering free agency.
"It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag)," Forte said last month on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But, if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."
Forte's franchise tag is worth $7.7 million in 2012. His representatives have had multiple talks with the team since the end of the season, including at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. At the time, coach Lovie Smith said "I think it's just a matter of time" before the sides reached a long-term agreement.
With that failing to take place yet, along with the addition of Bush, who started nine games last season, Forte is clearly unhappy with how the Bears are handling his situation
Notebook: 3B's: Bountygate, Brees and Bears
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