I was going to post this in another forum as a response to a Saints poster re/ the severity of the bountygate punishment, relative to Goodell's handling of spygate...but the response grew so long I figured what the hell, I'll post it as a new thread. You guys are a thoughtful bunch and I'm curious to see what you think of my position on all of this. Personally I think there are really two things to understand about the league and Goodell, and how they currently hand out punishments. Number 1, they're a multi-billion dollar business, so their overriding priority is to protect their brand. There's particularly nothing noteworthy or sinister about this--large businesses will act to protect themselves--but it goes a long way towards explaining the seeming arbitrariness of their penalties. Simply put, Goodell and the league are less concerned with the underlying transgression, than the degree to which the NFL 'shield" has been tarnished...so in fact the actual violation matters less than the amount of negative attention and media coverage that violation focuses on the league. Number 2--and this is a corollary to number 1--the NFL is now dealing with the specter of waves of litigation from former players regarding safety issues. So violations that have any relationship to player safety are essentially opportunities for Goodell and the league to publicly and forcefully demonstrate its "commitment" to player safety--not so much to current players, as to courts and potential future claimants in lawsuits against the league. The various penalties assigned under Goodell's reign over the past few years start to make a lot more sense when viewed from this context. There's a reason the Saints' penalties were so severe, just like there was a reason why the fine and suspension structure abruptly exploded in 2010 for hits that only a few years before would have drawn only modest punishments (if any). Punishments are now assigned for public posturing reasons as much as for actual "fairness". This probably sounds very cynical and negative but I honestly mean this only descriptively (and actually not necessarily disparagingly): the NFL is a big business, and it acts like one. It has a questionable record on player safety over the years, and currently has a potentially serious legal vulnerability in this area. So the league and Goodell are acting accordingly. I'm sure there are well-meaning people (perhaps, Goodell among them) in the league that honestly care and want to improve player safety. But the sudden *severity* of the penalties has less to do with good intentions, and more to do with the league desperately trying to promote itself as safety-conscious in an uncertain climate. The NFL has spent several decades tolerating, celebrating, and frankly marketing/promoting the very violence it suddenly deems appalling. The penalties are draconian now because while they may or may not have truly cared about player safety over the decades, they certainly care about *lawsuits*. Personally I wish that Goodell could just stand up without all the sanctimony and outrage (which is unfortunately all too easy for media types to parrot, and pile on to), call a spade a spade, and just be honest about why he's become more of a sheriff than a commissioner. For example, he could say: "Starting now, we're going to hand out massive penalties for crap we know has probably been going on forever in this league. This is partly because we do actually care somewhat about the players and their safety (our pursuit of an 18 game schedule notwithstanding). But mostly it's because we have an endless parade of lawsuits from players staring us in the face, all related to our possibly negligent stance on safety over the years. We know it's not exactly consistent or fair. And we recognize it's actually a bit hypocritical because we've sort of looked the other way on these issues for a long time, and frankly may have been beneficiaries--both in a promotional, and an actual *monetary* sense--from a lot of this stuff. But any hypocrisy and unfairness aside, we still HAVE to make this change, because these lawsuits represent a legitimate threat to the long-term viability of the NFL as we know it." While this statement would never actually happen, it would certainly make the NFL's somewhat inconsistent handling of player violations over recent years easier to understand.