Let’s continue with our coverage of the reaction to the punishment handed down to the New Orleans Saints in the wake of the Bounty Gate scandal that rocked the NFL this winter. Who better to check in with than Frank Tarkenton, the mercurial former Vikings quarterback who’s never shy about offering his two cents on the topic du jour.
Tarkenton joined ESPN Radio in Chicago to talk about his take on the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal led by Gregg Williams, whether he thinks it’s possible for Sean Payton to not have known about what was going on, if he would file a lawsuit had he been the victim of the bounty program, what he would say to those who think that the NFL is being ‘sissified’, what he would have done if a coach of his had instituted such a program, and whether or not he thinks any players will be suspended for their involvement.
On his general take on the bounty scandal involving Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints:
“I think that the facts, when they first came out, I took a strong position. I was outraged by it. The players I talked to from my generation are outraged about it. We didn’t play with bounties. Dick Butkus didn’t have bounties on anybody, or there wouldn’t have been anybody to play because he would’ve killed them all. This is nonsense. Goodell came down strong, then we hear this Gregg Williams on tape. They’re doing a documentary: he knows he’s being taped! So he is saying, “let’s hit him in the head.” He’s very graphic, “let’s go check the ACL out, see if that ACL is really there, if it’s really healed, let’s see if that concussion’s really healed with Crabtree.” All these vicious, awful, knowing he’s being [taped], so you got to think this guy thinks it’s ok. Now I hear these ex-jocks, modern ex-jocks, back then “ah, this is the way it is in football, this is just the way things are,”
and now I’m hearing some of the same stuff from the ESPN jocks doing that. The American people should be outraged. This is not the way it is. That’s not what the foundation of football was about. Goodell has already come down hard on Payton and Loomis and Gregg. Gregg Williams should never be able to be in the NFL again. He has done this at Tennessee, he did it in Buffalo, he did it with the Washington Redskins, he’s done it here. I got a YouTube video of when Peyton Manning’s neck got hurt the first time because he had a bounty on him by Gregg Williams where someone hit him low and another guy hit him around the head and twisted his neck. It was unbelievable. That’s where it started. That would trickle throughout the league. That would trickle down to college, down to high school football. The American public should be outraged at this, and I know Roger Goodell is outraged because if this spreads, this sport is dead.”
Whether he thinks it’s possible for Sean Payton not to have known about what was going on:
“The Head Coach, all of them, knew what was going on. Football, you live together for eight months. Everyone knows what’s going on. They knew what was going on. It came out in the investigation that Goodell was going for two years, the owner finally knew in January in this year, Payton knew, they all knew, the players knew, and they did nothing about it before this. Here’s what’s awful about this: Gregg Williams knows he’s getting taped. Sean Payton knows he’s getting taped. And he goes and has this, it’s just awful, just sickens your stomach. So, no, I don’t think he’s the only rogue coach that talks like this and does this, but I think he’s the one you know did this and he’s the one that advocated it. He should be banned, forever. He ought to be convicted. He ought to go to prison. This is criminal behavior. I think the lawsuits that will come out of this will absolutely be staggering because if you’re Brett Favre, if you’re Kurt Warner, if you’re the tight end up there in San Francisco, Vernon Davis, if you’re Crabtree, if you’re Frank Gore, don’t you think their lawyers are talking to them today saying ”we got a lawsuit here?’”
Whether he would file a lawsuit if he were one of the players that was victimized by the bounty program:
“Absolutely! Absolutely when someone’s going to try to take you out, to take your ACL and destroy your career purposely. We know the repercussions from the concussions and what happens, and now with science as it is and our guys that have passed on and given their brains to science. We know that these head traumas and concussions lead to Alzheimer’s . They lead to Dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease. We lost Wally Hilgenberg, one of my great teammates in Minnesota. It came back he died of Lou Gehrig’s disease and they attributed that to head trauma. Now this guy’s saying hit him in the head, hit him in the head, and when they’re on the ground hit him in head some more, hit him in the head some more, kill the head, kill the head, kill the head. What kind of sport are we talking about here?”
What he would say to those who think the league’s being ‘sissified’:
“I think they’re out of line. I think it’s the gangster rap and this and this and all the stuff and we are going to go out and knock their head sideways. It’s all wrong. But I don’t blame the players because as players, we are told and we are brainwashed, not in a bad way, from the time that we started played football as kids, you’re coach is your leader. Listen to your coach. He’s the one you look up to he’s the one who’s going to tell you the truth. He’s the one that’s going to make you better and you can trust him. So you do what he says: high school, college, pro. So if you’re coach tell you to go out and do all these things and you’re a 25, 26, 27, 28 year old kid, you get caught up in the emotion of the time and you do it and say “that’s ok.” You don’t think about it because we don’t think much when we are in our 20s.”
If he would have walked out of the locker room if one of his coaches had instituted a bounty program like the Saints’:
“I don’t know since I wasn’t there. I don’t know. It’s easy to say I would’ve done this when I wasn’t there right? All I know, it was wrong. What’s worse: this was a guy coming in to film a documentary for a fallen Special Teams guy, so this guy, Gregg Williams, knows he’s on camera! So, here’s the worst thing: he must have thought that what he was preaching and what he has been preaching for years was OK. So do I think he’s the only coach who has been doing this for over the years? No, but he was the one that’s been caught, and he should be made an example so this is cut out now and forever, and the punishment should be extreme. Since the New Orleans Saints before the game against the 49ers was on [tape], I think Goodell’s got to even come down harder on them because this is an organizational thing as well as a Gregg Williams thing. It’s just egregious. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
If he thinks any player will be suspended:
“I don’t know. I’ll tell you, Goodell is a good, tough commissioner. He’s been great for the sport. He’s come down hard on the people that [he] should. I trust his judgment because he’ll look at it. He won’t make a quick decision. But I would suspect that a player would get suspended, and if Goodell suspends him, it’s for good reason.”