The more we learn about football injuries, the more troubling the news. Not only has the NFL apparently failed to take the neurologic consequences of concussion seriously, we now know that causing injuries can be part of a team's game strategy.
It will be very interesting to see what kinds of punishment are meted out by the NFL in the wake of its report on payments for injury. A league investigation found that defensive players on the New Orleans Saints earned $1,500 for knocking an opposing player out of a game and $1,000 for an opponent’s being carted off the field. The payments doubled or tripled during the playoffs. The Saints' former defensive coach, Gregg Williams, administered the system, and he had previously implemented a similar system as a defensive coach for the Washington Redskins.
We've seen fines and one-game suspensions for vicious hits, but those have clearly been inadequate. It's bad enough that players assume far too much risk to their health by playing football. They should not have to worry that other teams are putting prices on their heads. And trying to turn injuries from a secondary effect of the game into a primary goal compromises the integrity of the competition.
For this kind of conduct, a lifetime ban would not be too harsh for Williams, who now coaches for the St. Louis Rams. But the NFL probably has not done enough to put him on notice for such a sanction. Still, a multi-year suspension would be reasonable, and anything less than a one-year suspension would be insufficient. Other culprits among Saints management and players must face stiff penalties as well.