Former Saints tackle Kyle Turley, who left the team long before quarterback Drew Brees arrived, made an interesting point on Monday regarding Brees’ potential connection to the now-dismantled Bayou Bounty Bureau.
What did Drew know, and when did he know it?
“I would like to know personally what he knew about this bounty system because he’s not only in charge of the safety of his players in that locker room in New Orleans, he’s supposed to be in those meetings responsible for all players across the league as it pertains to those types of issues,” Turley told Craig Shemon of Yahoo! Sports Radio. “That’s what I would like to know. Where has the union been in all of this and that’s what really needs to be found out.”
So far, the union has kept its head low, vowing only to study the league’s report on the recently-revealed three-year system of bounties. Brees should be studying it close, since he is a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee.
Also serving on that body is former Saints (and current Browns) linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the 2009 Saints defense that, as the league has determined, used a bounty system.
It’s an interesting point from Turley. Though Brees wasn’t in defensive meetings, he was on the practice field and in the locker room and anyone who has ever been in a setting like that knows that at some point there will be a stray comment or a joke or something that will shed some light on what may be happening. In those moments, we either become curious about what we just witnessed, or we say to ourselves, “I don’t know what they’re talking about, and I don’t wanna know.”
But while Turley may have found a way to nudge this story in a slightly different direction, he also fell into the predictable pattern that routinely is displayed by former players whose anger overlooks the fact that they were active participants in the very things about which they are now complaining.
“It’s an attitude that has been perpetuated by the league and the union and the way they’ve negotiated collective bargaining agreements,” Turley said. “To the layman out there, that basically means the NFL and the teams have no responsibility to the players health and safety.”
It’s a confusing allegation that points a sawed-off shotgun at pretty much everyone — including Turley himself. The players are the union. They appoint their leadership, and their leadership sets the agenda. And if player health and safety isn’t at the top of the agenda, that ultimately falls on the players.
Maybe that’s why the union doesn’t have much to say on matters of this nature. Through the existence of a bounty system in New Orleans and anywhere else, and through much of the time that the league allegedly concealed the long-term consequences of concussions and failed to take steps to protect the players from concussions, the players were represented by a union that had the ability to push these issues, and an even greater duty to protect each of them than the NFL has ever had.
The players are the union. The union is the players. And that includes Brees and Turley and every player who ever tried to knock a guy out of a game for a little extra cash, and every guy who ever was a target for such intentions.
That’s the one thing we all need to keep in mind when assessing this situation. The mentality that attracts grown men to play football for money has a dark side to it that the players have a shared responsibility in harnessing and controlling. To the extent that the league and/or any of its teams have failed in this regard, the players have failed, too.