In this week's Chain Reactions, bounty talk hits the Redskins, Wizards fans hit Andray Blatche with their frustration, and Bryce Harper wows them with his hustle.
Former Redskins Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams is now the most wanted man in the NFL. He could be going away for a longtime, but let's be real: this bounty stuff is nothing new. It is part of the culture and fabric of the NFL, but it is not unique to the NFL. In radio, we have bounties too.
For what, you may ask? Well, for getting microphone flags on TV, national magazines, newspapers (remember those?), and websites. I got the Sports Talk 980 mic flag in a Sports Illustrated photo in front of Michael Jordan when he was in his first camp with the Wizards. Pure gold, right? I was so proud. I showed it to my program director. He then handed me a box of dozen station logo-ed golf balls. The good old days! Can't get away with those things today though. Much better editing software.
In this week's Chain Reactions we get into whether the Redskins are bounty hunters, booing Andray Blatche, and whether Bryce Harper is still growing.
Bounties and the Burgundy and Gold
The NFL continues to investigate the Saints for their bounty program and the Redskins' day may be coming too thanks to Gregg Williams' tenure as the teams Defensive Coordinator in the Joe Gibbs 2.0 days. Plenty of players have come out to defend Williams, saying it was just about big play bonuses, not about injuring guys.
Gibbs says he was shocked to hear the news about Williams. He also says he had no knowledge of anything like that going on with the Redskins. It seems hard to believe that Gibbs did not have some clue this was going on, but former Defensive Line Coach Greg Blache backed up his old boss.
"I assure you, he had no idea of what was happening," said Blache, who was aware of Williams’s actions but declined to provide specific details on the bounty system. "If he had, he would have put a stop to it."
One thing that Gibbs did well in both his tenures with the Redskins was staying out of the defense's way. He let Richie Petitbon do his job and Gregg Williams too. Gibbs was famously unaware of Williams' plan to start a game with 10 players in honor of Sean Taylor back in 2007. So it could make sense he had no clue what was going on in defensive meetings.
However, during Gibbs' first tenure he apparently was not only aware of bounties or bonuses, he actually passed out the cash according to Head Hog George Starke.
"In the meeting after the game, Joe Gibbs would come in, he’d have a fistful of $100 bills," Starke said Monday on ESPN 980's Sports Reporters (via The Washington Post). "And if Dexter [Manley] knocked the quarterback down three times, he would get three $100 bills. And Joe would pass the money out in the meeting."
So does that mean Gibbs is lying about whatever Williams did in DC? Sure looks that way, but maybe it is actually just another example of how different the coach was in his second stint here.
Let's just hope the NFL doesn't think Gibbs and the Skins are covering up for their past sins or there may be a price to pay. Hopefully, Roger Goodell will just dock JGR Racing some cup points instead of coming after Skins draft picks and their shot at RGIII.
Blatche Made His Own Bed
I never have been one to boo at sporting events, although I have booed one of those stupid fake marriage proposals at the arena. You know, the one where the girl says no and the fans gasp. I mean, come on people! Those happen nightly across America. They are fake and so, for the record, is the mascot dropping the free TV.
All that being said, I really cannot blame the Wizards fans that still show up to Verizon Center for booing Andray Blatche. He is emblematic of everything that is wrong with the Wizards. A guy that has a ton of so-called "upside" and will never max it out because he has never shown a professional approach. Naturally, he doesn't seem to see it that way.
"You’re home and people that’s supposed to have your back don’t have your back," Blatche said. "Instead of encouraging you to get better, they push you down and hope you do worse. It’s not only hurting me, it’s hurting my teammates. I’m just hopefully trying to fight it and overcome."
Blatche has made more of an impact for his missteps off the court than on it. Blatche has never done anything like bring guns into the locker room, but he's had his issues with the law; getting arrested for reckless driving, soliciting an undercover cop for sex, and fighting with his teammate outside of a club.
Blatche has also been out of shape his entire career and he has been given plenty of support from the franchise, including a five-year, $35 million extension last off-season. That contract is as much of the problem as Blatche himself is. Others have been treated harshly by Wizards fans (Hello, Juwan Howard and Kwame Brown). However, like it or not, Andray has brought much of this on himself.
Bryce Harper Plays the Right Way
Andray Blatche could learn a lot from Bryce Harper. Here is a player that has been more hyped than Roy Hobbs, but he continues to play all out in exhibition games. Harper dove for a ball in the outfield during a lopsided loss to Houston on Sunday. He also has had a few infield singles already thanks to his run hard out of the box style. He plays hard all the time. His skipper Davey Johnson and Mets manager Terry Collins both gave the 19-year old plenty of praise after Monday night's exhibition win over the Mets.
"He hustled," Manager Davey Johnson said. "He plays hard. He’s a throwback. He plays the game right."
"Shoot, he played hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He runs every ball out. He runs the bases hard and slides hard. It was pretty impressive."
Part of Harper's game includes playing it the right way off the field, too. He has toned his act down from a year ago and is just trying to blend in the locker room. He has given up Twitter account, which sometimes got him into some ugly exchanges with fans who do not like his taste in sports franchises (the Yankees and Cowboys are two of his favorite teams). Fans will eventually over look those shortcomings as long as he comes up big for the Nats.
We all need to remember the 19-year old is literally still growing in front of our eyes like one of those child actors. (Hopefully, he will end up in a better place than Wills from Different Strokes.) As GM Mike Rizzo revealed during the MASN broadcast on Sunday, Harper is actually an inch taller this year than he was last spring training. Harper seems to be impressing early with his "shut up and play" strategy and for the Nats sake his play will hopefully make plenty of noise when it counts.