Saints Bounty Fallout

March 6, 2012 by staff 

Saints Bounty Fallout, On Friday night of Super Bowl weekend, I met Steve Gleason, the former Saint now suffering with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), at a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.

┬áThere was a big group at the table. Gleason, as part of his foundation to help ALS patients live meaningful lives, brought a fellow patient from Louisiana with him, and I brought along a couple of guests, including a friend, Field Yates, once an intern with Bill Belichick’s Patriots.

Yates told a story of a Patriots game against the Saints during Gleason’s career, and how Belichick had told him to watch Gleason on the field, because he was one of the best special-teamers in the NFL. “Just watch,” Belichick told him. Sure enough, Gleason creamed a Patriot, legally, on a kicking-team play during the game.

Someone brought up the crushing hits by James Harrison of the Steelers, and Gleason turned wistful. “I used to love those hits,” Gleason said. “Now I don’t love them so much anymore.”

Gleason is 34. His brother, Kyle, fed him that night because ALS has robbed Steve of the ability to completely control his muscle movements. No one knows for sure if a life in football caused the ALS that ravages Gleason now, but at least one study has made a direct link between ALS and the hard hits of football, and Gleason has his suspicions. As do I.

I found myself thinking about this scene over the weekend, with the news that the Saints of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, two years after Gleason left the team, began paying defensive players bounties to knock opponents out of games, and for making difference-making plays.

Steve Gleason is around this team a lot these days. He has talked to the players. The Saints have rallied around this warrior who, very possibly, is now paying the price of his future for hitting people so hard when he played. And I thought of Gleason because the game of football is vicious enough with the legal hits Gleason made sprinting downfield on special teams. Imagine players tempted by a cash bonus to be even more vicious, to knock important foes like Kurt Warner and Brett Favre out of games.

This does such a shameful disservice to Steve Gleason that I almost puke thinking about it.

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