As you've probably heard earlier today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dropped the hammer on Saints head coach, Sean Payton, as well as his former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Payton was suspended without pay for a full season and Williams may not ever coach in the NFL again. Some around the NFL call this a just punishment, while others feel that the Commissioner has flexed his muscle too hard while really trying to set an example for this type of behavior in the future.
"I don't know what happened. I wasn't there. I would imagine there should be some kind of sanctions," Whitworth said. "But this is ridiculous. To give a guy the same suspension that you give a guy that went to jail for a felony doesn't make sense. A guy who gets suspended for steroids can come back in four or eight games and make money and we applaud that.
"They weren't gambling. They weren't drinking or driving," Whitworth said. "If you want to make an example of someone, make an example of someone who commits a crime."
Whitworth has a particular affinity for the situation, being the team's player representative as well as growing up in Louisiana. He does have a point and that is what is leaving many scratching their head at this punishment. While trying to uphold the reputation of the League and its players, Goodell really hasn't shown any consistency with his punishments. Players like Donte Stallworth are able to play football again after killing a man while driving his car under the influence. It becomes a moral issue and the determination of which crimes are worse than others becomes a muddled area to tread.
Whitworth continued to echo the sentiment of a lot of players around the league:
"That's the game. That's the way it is when one huge man is trying to move another huge man," Whitworth said. "No one is intentionally trying to hurt anybody. But what coach or player hasn't said, 'Take out that receiver when he catches it over the middle.' Or, 'Hit the quarterback hard enough so the next time he pulls the ball down or flinches or knocks him out of the game.' I mean, that's football."
"That's how the NFL sells their game. You see the hits on the highlights. The intent is different than the rhetoric," he said. "You're not trying to go out there and hurt people. This is a very physical game of collision and contact and you have to have a certain kind of mindset. But what the communication is and what's actually meant, it's just not the same."
While he continues to make valid points, the truth is that Whitworth wasn't in that locker room when these "bounties" were given out by Payton, Williams and fellow Saints players. It may be accurate to say that this type of thing occurs around the league, but there could have been a real intent to injury a player and possibly end their career, and that's just despicable. Whitworth has also become close with Payton recently and that could be clouding his opinion.