A New Orleans Saint running back takes a hit from a Seattle safety.
A New Orleans Saint running back takes a hit from a Seattle safety.
Here is an editorial from the March 7 issue of the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. It was written by staff writer Joseph Kenny.

Football is the perfect combination of strength and skill, force and finesse.

Linemen smash into each other in an attempt to move the ball forward or, on defense, to push it backward or at least impede its progress. Receivers run precise routes and running backs accelerate and make quick cuts while defensive backs rely on their speed and skill to make a play.

I've always enjoyed the game, from the time as a grade-schooler playing with my brothers or friends in a backyard or a park to being on a high school team and then in college forming a flag-football team.

At Bishop DuBourg High School, I understood but never liked how the coaches drove the players relentlessly, trying to make us mentally and physically tougher and able to withstand challenges. But I quickly realized they took safety seriously, taught players the proper way to tackle and respect the game.

Not so with some people in the professional game. In a radio interview during Super Bowl Week, a retired defensive lineman talked about how his aim was to knock the quarterback out of the game, an attitude he defended vigorously. He was opposed to attempts by the National Football League to reduce concussions and other injuries.

Now comes news that new St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as a coach with the Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints, instituted a bounty program that rewarded defensive players for injuring their opposing players and removing them from the game. Williams has apologized and faces possible disciplinary action from the league.

Sportsmanship? Out the window, as far as Williams was concerned.

Maybe he should have asked himself this question: If his son was a quarterback or running back on an opposing team, would he have cheered a bounty for hits that would knock him out of the game, injuring him enough to leave the game and possibly severely enough to end his career?

I think not.

It's a violent game because of the need to be aggressive. Knocking the ball loose for a fumble is fair game. Players get hurt. But it shouldn't ever be intentional. And when an opposing player gets injured it shouldn't be something to celebrate.

Deacon Larry Stallings of Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield spent 14 seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, who have since moved to Arizona. A Pro Bowl linebacker in 1970, he retired in 1976.

He was surprised when he heard about a coach encouraging players to injure their opponent. "Of course it was a long time ago, but I don't remember anything like that happening. Occasionally you were recognized in a team meeting if you made a spectacular play but not for injuring somebody," he said.

There is some good that could arise as an awareness is made that such actions are wrong.

"Hopefully the league will take a stand and some of the players will take a stand that those type of programs are just not acceptable," Deacon Stallings said. "You certainly don't want to have junior football or high school coaches getting the idea that that is a positive program."

Football, even on the NFL level, is still a sport, with rules of sportsmanship applying, the former player said. He believes the practice is not as widespread as some suggest, with most teams and players believing in sportsmanship. "If you watch after a hard-fought game you'll see players from both teams mingling and shaking hands, talking to one another. The vast majority of players recognize that it's a competition and all competition has a winner and loser."