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Saints' bounty scandal: Football coaches have good reason for keeping injuries quiet

Thanks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the audio released by Sean Pamphilon, we know a much better reason to hide injuries than keeping foes from knowing who might be too slow to reach the corner.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 7, 2012

We hear it every autumn from football coaches far and near.

“We don't talk about injuries.”

“We don't talk about injuries.”

Bill Snyder. Mack Brown. Mike Gundy. Bob Stoops on occasion. Dozens more.

We thought they were being secretive. Thought they were playing mind games, trying to gain a schematic edge on some hapless foe.

Turns out, they were being protective.

Thanks to Roger Goodell, U.S. marshal, and the audio released by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, we know a much better reason to hide injuries than keeping foes from knowing who might be too slow to reach the corner.

Football is a gladiator sport in every sense of the word. Maiming is not only allowed, but encouraged, as we have learned not from Goodell's severe punishments of the New Orleans Saints, but from listening to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams exhort his defenders to injure certain 49ers in very specific ways.

And suddenly, hiding injuries takes on a whole new identity. The NFL publicizes injuries, ostensibly to counter black-market gambling information. College football has no policy, so most coaches play it coy.

Coy seems the way to go in the wake of Williams, on the Pamphilon audio, asking his Saints to “take out that outside ACL” of Michael Crabtree. Or imploring the Saints, “every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head (of Alex Smith). Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”

There's no wiggle in that kind of talk. I know Williams apologists say coaches just naturally talk in violent tones, but this wasn't generic kill-your-man motivation. These were specific, calculated missions. The stuff of Spartacus and Maximus.

This was not sport. This was combat.

I don't know how many NFL or college locker rooms hear such venom. Might be most, might be few. I don't know.

But the mere existence of coaches like Gregg Williams means coaches should be careful. In the same way that the intelligent can exploit tactical weaknesses in an opponent, the sinister can exploit health weaknesses. Can and apparently do.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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