On Friday, St. Louis Rams free agent linebacker Brady Poppinga publicly criticized Gregg Williams' bounty program, the subject of a recent NFL investigation that will likely land Williams and the Saints in some very hot water. Poppinga's remarks were the subject of this piece from Alex Marvez at Fox.
Poppinga is hardly the first player to speak out one way or another on the bounty program. What makes Poppinga's situation unique is that Gregg Williams is his defensive coordinator, for a little while anyway.
More the obvious connection about his re-signing with the Rams, Poppinga's statement raises questions about Williams' status with the Rams and the changes coming to Rams Park. Especially notable was that Poppinga brought James Laurinaitis into the conversation. Awkward!
"When this came out, it started to confirm the idea that football guys are idiots," Poppinga said. "That's not who we are. Ninety-five percent of the guys are very intelligent. It's just guys who love to go out and play a physical game."
He also called it "animalistic" and "barbaric."
For all the back and forth and "everyone does it" talk, Poppinga offered perhaps the most salient perspective on the larger implications of Williams' bounty program.
"It's a huge problem in society not knowing how to compete with the right perspective," Poppinga said. "I hope I can motivate people to think about taking a step back and trying to use competition for a greater purpose of self improvement. When you handle competition in the right way - win, lose or draw - it really brings out your best."
That really hits home outside the world of football, in a country still reeling from a recession caused by a winner-take-all attitude that overlooked very real consequences for families and society. I thought about that very point this week as I watched my neighbors move out of their foreclosed home, leaving a void and raising questions about the future of a pleasant stretch of street lined with middle class families who all work, raise children and let their dogs shit in each other's yards with little more than an eye roll.
As far as Poppinga's future with the Rams, this is probably a pretty good sign that he will not be coming back in 2012. That was probably already true, given his status as free agent from the previous regime and role as an outside linebacker in the league's worst run defense.
Thinking about the changes at Rams Park in light of the Williams' scandal got really interesting when Poppinga threw out Laurinaitis' name.
Poppinga said fellow linebacker James Laurinaitis is the only teammate he has spoken with about Williams. ("[Laurinaitis] knows the (bounty system) is pretty dumb," Poppinga said.) As a pending free agent, Poppinga knows speaking out against Williams - who was new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher's hand-picked coordinator - likely lessens his chances of re-signing.
It's not exactly damning, and the Rams would be foolish to alienate one of the team's best players and heart and soul of the defense.
To me, the real implications are this might impact Williams' standing in the eyes of the players, his players. New coaching staffs turn over the roster and bring in their own guys as a rule. However, you have to wonder if Williams is starting off his tenure in St. Louis with players already questioning him, with his authority undermined by the bounty scandal and impending punishment.
The fallout from "BountyGate" is only starting.