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FENNO: The NFL’s bounty situation won’t go away, as some unusual litigation shows
Question of the Day
One pass defended.
That's the tenuous line connecting a bounty program alleged under former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to a 24-page lawsuit filed by retired Giants linebacker Barrett Green.
One hit that hasn't been forgotten.
That's driving the unusual litigation, which targets the Redskins, Williams and ex-tight end Robert Royal, in the first time a player has sued over an injury he claims to have suffered because of Bountygate. That scandal, of course, accused multiple Saints players of paying cash for hits on opponents in a system purported to be created by Williams.
General accusations of similar systems during Williams' earlier stints with the Bills, Titans and Redskins followed. But absent from the NFL's ham-handed investigation, overturned suspensions of four Saints players and the flood of lawsuits, including everyone from the NFLPA to Saints season-ticket holders, was a former player lawyering up and blaming an injury on Williams.
The coach, after all, was known for profanity-laced pregame speeches, one of which included the admonition to "kill the head and the body will die." After a yearlong suspension by the NFL, Williams is back as an assistant with the Titans but remains, for better or worse, the face of a scandal that won't die.
What better target could a lawyer want?
One moment that Green, also suing the NFL over concussions, believed ended his career and refused to forgive.
That's not as simple, however, as the nefarious plots and bounty plans presented with little evidence in the lawsuit that was moved to federal court in Maryland last week.
Asked for comment Wednesday, Royal responded via Twitter: "Not at all. I'm enjoying my life. Same thing others should be doing."
All this goes back to Dec. 5, 2004, when Royal lined up as a slot receiver in the third quarter at FedEx Field.
"Royal accelerated towards Plaintiff Green, intentionally lowered his helmet and dove into the defenseless linebacker's knees at full speed," the lawsuit said. "The hit was unusual, outrageous and an obvious cheap shot."
Royal was flagged for an illegal crackback block on Green, who had been ejected the previous week for throwing a punch at Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. That punch isn't mentioned in the lawsuit and is ironic, given the complaint's charges include battery. After the Redskins game, Green told reporters Royal apologized through a teammate. Green didn't accept.
"They knew what they were doing," Green told the New York Post in 2004. "They wanted me off the field and they did it."
That's hardly eye-opening in an inherently violent, risk-filled game. The mystery piece that claims to elevate this above another unfortunate on-field injury (and beyond Maryland's three-year statute of limitations) is Bountygate, one errant statistic and enough supposition to fill FedEx Field.
Remember that pass defended? The game's play-by-play credited Royal with one on an Eli Manning incompletion in the second quarter. That number doesn't appear in any box score or season statistics. But the lawsuit uses the play to claim Royal played defense and thus fell under Williams' tutelage and was part of any bounty program that existed.
Add that play to rehashed media reports over Williams' bounty doings and you end up with a lawsuit insisting Royal "acted with a depraved heart" and "actual malice" and was "instructed to injure the plaintiff." No evidence is introduced to back up the assertions, but that doesn't slow page after indignant page.
In a separate 46-page filing, the plaintiffs ask for enough records to clear-cut a forest. Those include the personnel files of defensive lineman Phillip Daniels and safety Matt Bowen. The former Redskins spoke publicly about a bounty program under Williams. Also on the shopping list: personnel files for every Redskins coach from 2000 to 2012 (don't forget the social security numbers), offensive, defensive and special teams game plans for the Dec. 5, 2004, Giants contest, and voluminous requests for other documents and demands for answered questions.
The Redskins declined to comment.
Green's career lasted one more game in the season following the torn knee ligament. The lawsuit claimed the hit cost him $10 million in future earnings. But he's not the first player to be blocked below the knees. Not the first to tear his ACL. Not the first to watch his career end earlier than he believed it should. Not the first to suffer what he believed was a cheap shot.
The other day, Daniels, who played in the game, tweeted: "Barrett Green give up buddy."
Substantiate the connection to Bountygate and that changes. Otherwise, all that may not be fair. But that's just football.
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