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The NFL: From Bounties To Tebow's New Home


Now, from March Madness to the scandal called Bountygate. And can a virtuous young man find happiness in the big city that never sleeps, but sure swears a lot. Senior write for ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine, Howard Bryant, joins us.

Morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thank you. And let's start with Bountygate. The NFL commissioner has suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for a year and the defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely for running a bounty system that paid players in cash to make disabling hits on opponents. So is this all taken care of now?

BRYANT: No, it's not taken care of. It's certainly far from being taken care of. Sean Payton's gone for a year and Gregg Williams may not ever come back. But what this is really about is the future. It's about the fact that you've got 659 concussion-related or injury-related lawsuits against the NFL, including Dave Duerson, who was a great player for the Chicago Bears.

You've got a lot of big names here who are talking about the culture of football. The problem with football is football. And what you have now on top of the concussion era, on top of the fact that player safety is now something that you don't laugh at as they used to in the old days. But now, you've got the NFL having to deal with a policy that one of your teams had in place, a written policy, about taking other players out and hurting them and injuring them and compensating them for it.

So, in the old days this might have been something that people kind of laughed about, you know, men were just being men. Back in 1989, you had the bounty game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. But today, with the era of concussions, you've got congressional hearings coming up on this very thing, it's not a laughing matter. And the NFL is really got an image problem, it's really got a cultural issue. And I think the big question is going to be what is football actually going to be looking like over the next three to five years?

SIMON: A narrower question, Howard. I think of that 2010 Super Bowl victory by the Saints as just one of the great enrapturing moments of sports, when the city was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. Does this make that Super Bowl victory as tainted as, say, the Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire home run race?

BRYANT: No, I don't think so. I think because what Sosa and McGuire did was so obviously egregious. It's 1998 and Major League Baseball is now clearly a discredited year because you had two players, among many other players, involved in a culture where they were using illegal drugs that were enhancing their performance and they lied about it. What happened here is that the public got to find out what everybody on the inside already knew, which is that football is an incredibly violent game. It's an incredibly personal game, and that these are some of the motivating factors that coaches use to try to get better performances out of players. It's not illegal. It's completely immoral. It's not very good sportsmanship. It's bad class, but it's not the same as using illegal performance enhancers.

SIMON: And finally in 30 seconds we have left, Tim Tebow traded to the New York Jets this week after the Broncos signed Peyton Manning.


BRYANT: Is that trade final yet?

SIMON: Yeah, I don't - well, you're the expert. I just ask the questions. Four P.M. today.


SIMON: So, how are the New York tabloids - what fun are they going to have following a guy who goes on religious missions? Maybe they'll saw something a little different this time.


BRYANT: It's going to be very interesting in New York how Tim Tebow's game plays, both on the field and off of the field, because he is a polarizing figure, because he does not shy away from his religious beliefs. And as we know, in New York City is one of the most religiously diverse places in the country. Let's just put it this way: the New York tabloids have a lot of ink and they're going to have every chance to use it.

SIMON: All right. Howard Bryant. Senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.