Matt Bowen Writes About Redskins Bounty System

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Chicagotribune.com: Matt Bowen - Bounties part of game across the NFL

Prices were set on Saturday nights in the team hotel.

In a makeshift meeting room, with the whisper of evening traffic pouring in from the Beltway, we laid our bounties on opposing players. We targeted big names, our sights set on taking them out of the game.

Price tags started low during the regular season — a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees. Chop him down and give a quick smile when you got back to the huddle. You just got a bonus.

The pot was collected throughout the season through fines. Show up late? Ding. Blow an assignment during practice? Again. Walk on the field with your chinstrap unbuckled. Again. Break the rules, you gave to the bank.

The cash was kept stashed away at the team facility, in safe hands. After coaches reviewed Sunday's film, we paid it back out. Our accountability, governed by our accounting.

That's right. We got paid for big hits, clean hits by the rule book.

Money came in for more than watching a guy leave the field. We earned extra for interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. If the till wasn't paid out, we just rolled it over.

Money jumped in the playoffs. A bigger stage equaled more coin. Instead of a few hundred dollars, now you got a thousand, maybe more, depending on the player.

That's the truth. I can't sugarcoat this. It was a system we all bought into.

I ate it up.

It's hard not to, not when you're playing for a coach like Gregg Williams, my defensive coordinator while I was with the Washington Redskins.

Williams is an excellent motivator. You do what he wants: play tough, push the envelope and carry a swagger that every opponent sees on tape. When you lined up against us, you knew we were coming after you. It was our gig, our plan, our way to motivate, to extra-motivate.

I wanted to be That Guy for him, playing the game with an attitude opposing players absolutely feared. If that meant playing through the whistle or going low on a tackle, I did it.

I don't regret any part of it. I can't. Williams is the best coach I ever played for in my years in the NFL, a true teacher who developed me as a player. I believed in him. I still do. That will never change.

Your career exists in a short window, one that starts closing the moment it opens. If making a play to impress a coach or win a game pushes that window up an inch before it slams back down on your fingers, then you do what has to be done.

Some day, when my three sons grow up, I will make clear to them that this league isn't for everyone. No doubt, it can be downright disgusting living by a win-at-all-costs mentality. It's a fundamental part of the NFL's culture that isn't talked about outside of team facilities.

I'm not saying it's right. Or ethical. But the NFL isn't little league football with neighborhood dads playing head coach. This is the business of winning. If that means stepping over some line, you do it.

Bounties, cheap shots, whatever you want to call them, they are a part of this game. It is an ugly tradition that was exposed Friday with Williams front and center from his time coaching the defense in New Orleans. But don't peg this on him alone. You will find it in plenty of NFL cities.

Win or else. That's the drill.
 

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Chicagotribune.com: Matt Bowen - Bounties part of game across the NFL

Prices were set on Saturday nights in the team hotel.

In a makeshift meeting room, with the whisper of evening traffic pouring in from the Beltway, we laid our bounties on opposing players. We targeted big names, our sights set on taking them out of the game.

Price tags started low during the regular season — a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees. Chop him down and give a quick smile when you got back to the huddle. You just got a bonus.

The pot was collected throughout the season through fines. Show up late? Ding. Blow an assignment during practice? Again. Walk on the field with your chinstrap unbuckled. Again. Break the rules, you gave to the bank.

The cash was kept stashed away at the team facility, in safe hands. After coaches reviewed Sunday's film, we paid it back out. Our accountability, governed by our accounting.

That's right. We got paid for big hits, clean hits by the rule book.

Money came in for more than watching a guy leave the field. We earned extra for interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. If the till wasn't paid out, we just rolled it over.

Money jumped in the playoffs. A bigger stage equaled more coin. Instead of a few hundred dollars, now you got a thousand, maybe more, depending on the player.

That's the truth. I can't sugarcoat this. It was a system we all bought into.

I ate it up.

It's hard not to, not when you're playing for a coach like Gregg Williams, my defensive coordinator while I was with the Washington Redskins.

Williams is an excellent motivator. You do what he wants: play tough, push the envelope and carry a swagger that every opponent sees on tape. When you lined up against us, you knew we were coming after you. It was our gig, our plan, our way to motivate, to extra-motivate.

I wanted to be That Guy for him, playing the game with an attitude opposing players absolutely feared. If that meant playing through the whistle or going low on a tackle, I did it.
I am not sure about this apparent contradiction. On one hand he suggests he crossed the line on the other he said it was all by the rules. Which is it Matt?

Again, if the bounty is for a good solid hit, perhaps even putting a player out of the game from a legal hit, I have no problem with a coach motivating his players.

But if they are talking about taking a running back out low, threatening his career, there is a major problem with it!
 

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Can't ignore the fact that compensation for any kind of hit in a game is considered illegal as per NFL rules. Incentives in a contract is fine, but the former is not.
 

fansince62

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clearly.....the Skins didn't have enough money in the pool even when it came to clean hits!
 

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Isn't it the irony of all ironies that the Redskins would be interested in acquiring Manning, after previously putting out a bounty to end his career ?

If he ends up signing with the Skins, and he fails here due to that neck injury, what Poetic Justice that would be. (not that our current coaching staff or players would be to blame, of course)
 
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riggins44

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I think back to the Eagles came in Oct. Early in the game Lichtensteiger was injured on what our players called a cheap shot.

Did the Eagles DL have a bounty on him or couple of our OL? There are so many instances looking back where fans and probably even players will now wonder.

As mentioned in other thread, I see this becoming a witch hunt.
 

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This was a very well written piece by Bowen. He lays it out and says they were just doing what they had to do and using all the motivation they could use. Clearly it's illegal so it should not be happening, but his next to last statement said it best. You will find this throughout the league. I don't know if this was the most rampant example of this or just the one they were able to get some proof.

I've heard some wild rummors about how New Orleans could get punished. I certainly hope this doesn't come down on the Redskins as well.
 

fansince62

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if the refs don't call flagrant fouls on hits during the game....and remember...the league also conducts post game reviews and levies fines...this all kinda strikes me as trumped up horse manure. putting aside the rules and tax evasion implications.....in my mind the game is becoming less and less interesting. there is no way with guys this big, this strong, moving that fast that injuries will be avoided. they've wussified the game so much from what it used to be PLUS diminished the probability for truly great teams to emerge as a consequence of how personnel are managed.....that the quality of football has deteriorated.
 

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When you are paid millions to play sport, isn't that incentive enough to play to the best of your ability?

The best of the best Aussie Rules players are lucky to be paid $600,000 a year, and to play without pads or a helmet. Wouldn't they have more incentive to earn more money by playing 'bounty ball'? One would think so!
 

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Apparently the bounties for late hits were a lot more than the rewards for turnovers. No wonder we were always at the bottom of the NFL in that category when Williams and Blache were running the defense.
 

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