By David Meggyesy (yes, THAT David Meggyesy)

NFL football is our American war game, a violent conquest and defense of territory. But it is still a game, an athletic contest, not a killing field. The bounty programs perpetuated by former Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams, and apparently others in the league, fundamentally dishonored
and disrespected the competition.

Now it’s time for the players to step up and take responsibility for protecting themselves and the game.

Once the maim-for-hire fiasco was exposed, Williams said he knew he’d done wrong and should never have started the bounty program in the first place. Well, why was it wrong?

I think Williams is engaging in a mea culpa not solely to curry favor with the NFL brass but because he really knows, somewhere in his heart, that it was wrong. A close analogy is a husband or wife being caught cheating on their spouse. There may be a number of seemingly good rationalizations — “most of my friends cheat” — but in the cheaters’ hearts they know they have done wrong and dishonored the marriage and their mate.

What happened here is that Williams, in an ultra-competitive NFL, decided that the means (offering cash to injure and potentially cripple opposing players) justified the ends (a successful defense and a positive coaching career). Given his authority, the players he coached went along with the program, although many have said they knew it was not right.

When I played in the NFL, there were “dirty” players who we knew tried to injure other players. They were known by everyone in the league. Quite naturally, during a game if we had the chance we would give then a “little extra.” We, the players, enforced the allowed conduct. Everyone knew the unwritten rules of the road.

The NFL game is tough enough, violent enough and competitive enough without a career-driven coach, whose body was not on the line, inciting injury. It is time for NFL players to grab the reins and take responsibility for eliminating maiming bounties. Establish the rules of the road, enforced by the players themselves. After all, it is the players’ bodies and careers that are at risk every play. Man up. It is your game.

David Meggyesy, a former NFL linebacker and executive with the NFL Players Association, is the author of Out of Their League.   Read more HERE