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Bill Cowher On Nfl Bounty Controversy: “You Try To Hurt ‘em, But You Don’t Try To Injure Them.”

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When he roamed the sidelines as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher struck fear into the hearts of his players with his intense outbursts in the faces of players. Seeing The Chin get incensed was motivation alone for Steelers players to get after the opposition; cash rewards probably weren’t necessary. Cowher, who’s stayed retired and in broadcasting since coaching his last game in 2006, weighed in on the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, how he views the situation in terms of the league as a whole, and what he knew or didn’t know about similar types of programs when he was head coach. Cowher joined WFAN in New York with Boomer and Carton to talk about the New Orleans Saints bounty program, how it was a violation of the salary cap, how there used to be money awarded to special teams players for tackles inside the 20 when he was an assistant coach, how he would never allow that type of thing to happen under his watch as a head coach, and whether he thinks this situation is a black mark on the league.

On his take on the whole Saints bounty scandal situation:

“Players have always had little pools with which they put money into — they do it in practice, they do it in games. The word bounty is a problem to me because to me it reflects trying to injure somebody, you’re trying to get somebody out of the game by injuring them. And that to me is the problem I have. I’ve never condoned that. Certainly there was a time when you used to give money to special teams players for tackles inside the 20. So there’s all these incentives that you had. But I think the league has really cracked down on it, even when the cap came into it, and they eliminated any of those bonuses because it’s a way of circumventing the cap. I mean, that in itself is a rules violation. I think the concept, to me the biggest problem is they were told about this yet they continued to do this. That’s the biggest problem I’ve had with this is condoning something that can imply trying to injure a player.”

On his previous comment that it’s acknowledged that players have bets with themselves:

“The thing I always go back to is if I ever heard somebody trying to knock somebody out of the game, to me, there’s going to be in your mind of doing whatever it takes to do that, and there’s going to be and that is going to be an illegal play that costs your team at some point. And to me that is very selfish. So I have no problem of trying to impose yourself, and making people feel your presence when they come across the middle of the field — that’s part of the game, it’s an intimidating game and intimidation is a big part of it. But trying to hurt players is one thing, and that’s fine trying to with clean hits, but to imply injury — that to me is what bounty does, you’re trying to injure a player and get him out of the game — to me you’ve crossed the line.”

If he thinks it is possible that a similar program could have been run by one of his assistant coaches while he was a head coach:

“No way. I think the players could sit there and put something together amongst themselves, but there’s no way that a coach of mine is going to sit there and have a system set up where guys come to me and say ‘coach, we need $4,000, we had a pretty good week on defense.’”

Whether he thinks this is a black mark on the league:

“Well I don’t think it’s a black mark on the league. The fact is they got to it. I think there’s a lot of things right now that Roger Goodell has tried to clean up and pull back, and I think he’s going to have to send a message with what’s going on. And the message is, again, if some of these things were going on and we didn’t know about it, stop it. And they were told about this, and fact that they continued to do it, to me, is almost a blatant arrogance that they’re going to have to get punished for. I know when I coached special teams, we used to give money out for tackles inside the 20, and it got to the point where we couldn’t do it because it became a cap violation — you can not give money to players that wasn’t being reported. To me, I go back to it is a cap violation. How do you know you’re not supplementing a contract — just like Denver was giving houses out back in the day. There are a lot of things that they have to do to make sure everything is under their umbrella, and it’s going to be an ongoing issue. But I don’t think it’s a black mark on the league. I think right now what they’re looking at is they have to make a statement that says, ‘listen, if we find something that is circumventing the cap or is doing something that is not in the best interest of the game, and we find it and we warn you, stop.’”

On how many teams he thinks might have been involved in doing something similar as the Saints:

“I think there’s teams doing it, but I think it’s more amongst the players. I think it’s a player thing personally. I don’t think it’s something that teams are condoning. I think to do something like that, you better have a coach that’s been there awhile who’s got some credibility that they’re going to trust that is doing this and doing it properly. But I don’t think many are doing it. Honestly, in my 15 years, I had never heard of it, we had never even discussed it. You heard about bounties and you heard about that being done, but I thought it was more individual players just making a statement by “trying to get back at somebody. Listen, Hines Ward and Baltimore, with his mouth and some of the blocks he made against defensive players, believe me they were trying to take him out. But again, I never thought it had that kind of effect on the game in terms of how people played the game. But I certainly think if you use the word bounty that implies injury, and there’s nothing good about trying to injure players.  You try to hurt ‘em, but you don’t try to injure them.”

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