-The Green Bay Packers under Mike McCarthy don't strike you as a group that would institute a bounty program (in fact some might argue they had a hard enough time just tackling when they needed to), but in 1986 at least one Green Bay Packer did.
Chicago Attorney Eldon Ham has practiced sports law since the 1970's and recently contributed a New York Times Op-Ed regarding NFL hit lists.
He writes, "In 1986 the Green Bay Packers targeted players by marking numbers on their sideline towels. One number marked was 9, that of the Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon: he was slammed to the turf by defensive end Charles Martin of the Packers, damaging an already injured shoulder. Mr. McMahon decided not to sue or press charges — I was one of his lawyers at the time — even though Mr. Martin’s hit was blatantly premeditated."
McMahon missed the rest of the season and Martin was suspended for two games. That should have ended all N.F.L. bounty programs then and clear rules and punishment would have been clear. In fact Mr. Ham argues that NFL players guilty of such blatant violence should be turned over to the criminal courts, rather than letting the league itself hand out punishment-which to this point many will argue has not been severe enough, and as a result, bounty programs could exist.
Of course in hindsight those responsible for the league at the time of Martin's hit, namely commissioner Pete Rozelle hardly could have imagined to what extent player safety would become in 2012.
And if you thought it was an issue this spring in the aftermath of the NFL's investigation of Gregg Williams and the Saints, wait until the games begin this fall. Every "knock them to the ground" tackle will be scrutinized even more closely for intent.
It's an inevitable conclusion that the NFL post-2011 will certainly eject or suspend suspected head-hunters more swiftly than at any time other time in league history.
What really has taken so long? The issue has always been there. A December 1994 article by Gordon Forbes in the USA TODAY read like this
"Eight NFL quarterbacks have been knocked out of games with concussions this season, most of them by blows with the crown of the helmet. The NFL officials who were witnesses have been consistent. Eight knockouts, no ejections.
But don't wait for the NFL to launch a crackdown on head-hunters. Before that happens, the NFL's Competition Committee must pore over endless tapes of quarterback injuries and offer a solution. Then the 30 owners must vote on any new safety rule.
Former NFL referee Jim Tunney calls the head-hunting "smash football, terminator football. We're fully into that now."
Tunney has a few rules changes in mind: Allow quarterbacks to throw the ball away without any restrictions; and eject any player who tries to "run through the quarterback."
Back in 1986, when Martin was asked why he slammed McHahon, he replied "I wasn't even thinking," which many people found comical or somewhat pathetic at the time. But the fact is, players are reacting on instinct, and it makes one wonder if the NFL can truly ever eliminate shots to the head, injury inducing hits and the like-bounties or no bounties.
Ndamukong Suh was suspended two games this past season for stomping Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Suh said after the game he didn't really even stomp Dietrich-Smith.
Suh's lame excuse was, "from the situation in the best way I felt, me being held down in the situation I was in. And further, my intentions were not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself as you see, I'm walking away from the situation and with that I apologize to my teammates and my fans and my coaches for putting myself in the position to be misinterpreted and taken out of the game. "
After slamming McMahon Martin later apologized, ''What I did was wrong,'' he told The Green Bay Press-Gazette. ''I realize that it's wrong now. I didn't realize how bad it was until the media and TV and all that stuff was showing it every day."
''I felt like I did something real terrible. But it wasn't intentionally done to try to hurt him, to put him out of the game. I feel sorry for myself, for what I did. It was wrong, but I had no control over it. It just happened so fast. I wasn't even thinking. I wish I had never done it.''
Martin had the names of McMahon and four other Bears offensive players written on a towel which was tucked into his waste.
He explained, "Those were the key guys on the team we had to play well against and maybe take a couple out."
"When you get an interception, we go for live meat."
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