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The NFL’s criminals, on and off the field

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

Every NFL fan owes a big thanks to Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.
Thanks to those guys, the ones who got caught at least, Senator Dick Durbin is now threatening a full government investigation of the bounty scandal, and has proposed making bounties in professional and collegiate athletics a criminal offense.
Not only do I have to go about in fear of my favorite linebacker getting indicted on second degree murder or felony drug charges, his conduct on the field could now get him locked up.
And all of the dirt in the NFL, and there’s plenty of it, may have to show its ugly face in daylight, and the end result won’t be a favorable one to those people who enjoy professional athletic contests.
What’s more, Durbin, in an interview with the Associated Press, made the leap to wrap the bounty scandal together with the NFL’s new policies on concussions, and offered this gem of a quote in the story: “They’re not unrelated. You can certainly see the rules of the National Football League have changed over the years. What used to be considered normal player conduct that could result in serious injury has been expressly prohibited by the rules.”
But, as usual, when the organization responsible for enforcing those regulations appears to be slacking off on the job, it’s The Government’s turn to step in.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s Durbin who has taken the lead on this thing either. As a hero of the American neo-Liberals and a former lawyer to boot, it’s in his job description to be the head enforcer in charge of the No-Fun Committee.
Joe Horn, a former NFL wide receiver who is probably most famous for his touchdown celebration with a cell phone, took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to task in the same article: “All of a sudden, he wants to pop his chest out and set up these (punishments)? If he was a great commissioner and he really cared about player safety, he would have fined teams five years ago for what happened, because it happened back then,” Horn said. “(Goodell) should fine himself $7 million, because as the commissioner, he should have known years ago this same thing was happening with every other team in the NFL.”
That’s a pretty astute observation from a guy who’s brain has been scrambled by years of vicious hits.
Goodell’s suspension of Payton for a year has drawn shaking heads from current and former players, because it’s too-little-too-late.
The Saints made the biggest mistake they could make —they got caught.
That’s not to say they should get away with intentionally injuring opponents, but it’s too bad they’ll have to be the scapegoat, and take the brunt of the public’s manufactured outrage.
Michael Gebelein is a sports writer with the Lincoln Times-News.

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