When the NFL first disclosed that a bounty program had been implemented and maintained by former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams, it was widely assumed that multiple lawsuits would be filed in connection with the program that gave cash incentives to players who inflicted injury on opponents.
While some of the concussion lawsuits had cited the bounty program, Williams had not directly been sued by any player who allegedly was injured by a bounty.
Via Tulane sports law professor Gabe Feldman, former NFL linebacker Barrett Green has sued the Redskins, Williams, and tight end Robert Royal for a knee injury Green suffered in 2004, when Green played for the Giants.
Per Feldman, the lawsuit alleges that “Redskins coaches directed their players to disregard criminal and civil laws, as well as NFL rules, to intentionally injure opponents.” Green also contends that he was “suspicious” Royal may have specifically targeted Green.
Joe Gibbs served as head coach of the Redskins in 2004, and Williams was the defensive coordinator. Green contends that Royal played defense at times, which would have brought him under the umbrella of Gregg Willliams.
Still, absent evidence that the Redskins had a bounty program that rewarded offensive players for knocking defensive opponents out of games, it will be hard to prove that Royal had any reason to try to injure Green — apart from the obvious but largely unspoken incentive to win what amounts to a game of attrition.
After the league announced the discovery of a bounty program with the Saints, players coached elsewhere by Williams claimed that Williams used a bounty system in places other than New Orleans. The NFL opted not to investigate the use of bounties by other teams that employed Williams, possibly because the NFL realized that it was a much broader cultural reality of NFL football.
In our view, the NFL had no desire to venture down that rabbit hole, because the NFL would have realized that imposing crippling punishment on the Saints for doing what many other teams had done would have been grossly unfair. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue reasoned in the decision striking down the suspensions of various Saints players, culture change should happen more gradually, with all offenders having a chance to cease the now-frowned-upon practice before anyone is disciplined for it.
Now, the Green lawsuit could drag the NFL into that rabbit hole, with players and coaches inevitably questioned regarding the extent to which bounties were used in Washington, the Giants, the Saints, and perhaps other teams.