Billick’s blog: Locker Room Talk Should Stay There

October 25, 2008 | Brian Billick

As I prepare for my weekly games for Fox I typically do a number of radio shows in addition to the three times per week at WNST, ranging from national shows like “Mike and Mike” to “The Dan Patrick Show” to local sports talk shows in various cities. This week I have the Washington Redskins vs. the Detroit Lions. As I worked my way through the week it seemed all anyone wanted to talk about was the comments by Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis about “bounties” on players, and about the topic of Brett Favre and his supposed calling of the Detroit Lions and wanting to help them with their game a few weeks ago vs. the Lions.

First, so-called “bounties” by players is a commonplace occurrence in any looker room and similar to the bravado displayed on most schoolyards. Players are constantly motivating each other by putting a certain amount of money in a pool and the cash going to the player that “knocks” so-and-so out of a game, or gets a interception for a TD, or pancakes a defender on a running play. This is standard operating procedure in virtually every locker room in the NFL.

Players know this is a very physical and violent game, and I have yet to meet one that would willing, by pre-design, go after another player with the intent to injure or end a career. Players are very cognoscenti of how quickly a career can be ended by injury. All you need do is watch players come together after a player is serious laid out on the field and show genuine concern for the fallen comrade. I saw this first hand just this year when I was doing the Arizona vs. New York Jets game and Anquan Boldin was laid out by Eric Smith near the end of the game. The players immediately congregated around Boldin and several gathered together in prayer.

What is worth commenting on is how stupid it is to talk about it afterward. Locker room talk should be just that. To expect people outside of that environment to be able to filter or understand what the mentality is behind that type of interaction between players is naive, if not just down right stupid. In the Championship game vs. the Oakland Raiders in 2000, Tony Siragusa put a brutal hit on Rich Gannon and knocked him out of the game. Goose was subsequently fined by the league. To this day I believe he would have gotten away with the hit, which wasn’t flagged by the way, if only he hadn’t bragged about it after the game.

This has all happened with the backdrop of Troy Polamalu questioning the league’s motives of fines with regard to play on the field.  It is obviously a very fine line to balance in what is, by design, an incredibly physical and violent sport.  I do disagree with Troy on one point.  He intimated that the league was fining not for safety reasons but to make a show of the fines and that they are doing something.  I strongly disagree.  This league has been very pro-active and diligent about providing the safest environment they can for the players.  The fines may not have an effect, but they need to be levied if for no other reason, to just get the players to pause and consider the effects of their play.

Having said that I do find it worth noting that at the end of the year the league will produce any number of videos for sale with “Big Hits in the NFL”.

With regards to Brett Favre helping the Lions with their game plan against the Packers, it is a non-issue in my book. The phone lines around the league are always burning between coaches and players about past and future opponents. This has become such a transitory league with both coaches and players changing teams so much it would be a surprise if this type of thing weren’t going on.

Players are constantly querying other players about whom they just played and how they played them. Most coaches will call a coaching friend or former associate about somebody they just played and how and why they took the approach they did.

I do regret that this will likely continue to tarnish Favre’s image. He is a great player and I am concerned that he may well be remembered more for what has happened in the last 6 months than what a great player he has been for over 16 years.