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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Jail, not NFL future, should be No. 1 on Williams' list of worries


The Saints reportedly put a price on Brett Favre's head in the 2009 NFC title game. (US Presswire)  
The Saints reportedly put a price on Brett Favre's head in the 2009 NFC title game. (US Presswire)  

Gregg Williams never coaches again in the NFL. That has to be the first consequence of the nauseating bounty system he oversaw in New Orleans -- and apparently with the Bills and Redskins too -- but not the last. Nor should that be the greatest concern today of Williams or his supporters, assuming he has any.

After being barred for life from the NFL -- I mean, don't even let him into the stadium as a fan -- Williams should spend the next several years worrying about criminal charges. Jail? Sure. Until the statute of limitations expires, Williams should spend the next several years worrying about jail.

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Because what he did was more than unacceptable, worse than unethical.

What he did was criminal.

Those were crimes his players committed at his behest, and there's no room here for debate. Not according to a retired judge of nearly 15 years who was a criminal defense attorney for more than a decade before that, and a law professor specializing in criminal law for a decade before that.

"No might be about it," the retired judge told me Sunday, when I called him to ask if Gregg Williams' bounty system "might be" criminal. "There's no question, this was criminal. If a player was hurt, and he was hurt by players playing outside the rules -- with intent to injure, and 'intent' is the key word here -- that makes it a battery. No one in the NFL consents to being hit in such a way that is intended to injure them. This was criminal."

The retired judge? My father, Robert Doyel. But Gregg Williams has more to worry about than me and my father saying harsh things about him. Gregg Williams should worry about Martha Holton Dimick and Leon A. Cannizzaro, the district attorneys of Minneapolis and New Orleans -- the people who could, if they so choose, pursue a criminal case against him.

According to the vicinage clause of the Sixth Amendment, "the accused shall enjoy the right to a [trial by jury] of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." Williams' crimes were committed in football stadiums throughout the NFL, which means the vicinage clause would allow district attorneys around the country to pin their ears back, in meathead football parlance, and try to get to Gregg Williams.

I'm thinking there's a 99.8 percent chance that Gregg Williams won't face legal charges, but it's that 0.2 percent that should keep him up at night. "Vicinage" is a word I want Williams to ponder for the next several years. Dimick and Cannizzaro? Those are the names I want him to mutter when he tries to sleep. But those aren't the faces I want him to see. I want him to see Brett Favre, because Williams' bounty system helped chase one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history into retirement. You can argue Favre should have retired anyway at age 41, but that's another matter. Right or wrong, Favre couldn't walk away -- didn't walk away -- until he could barely walk away thanks to the brutal pounding the Saints administered.

Favre didn't retire until a year later, but the beating he took in that game reduced him to a shell of himself for his final, injury-shortened season. It was so brutal, so unusual even in the context of professional football, that it dominated conversation for days and remained a topic of discussion for months. The following August -- more than a year before news broke of Gregg Williams' bounty system -- CBSSports.com's Clark Judge visited the Vikings' training camp and posed the question to coach Brad Childress:

Do you think they tried to hurt Favre?

"Yes," Childress said. "As I look through 13 different clips ... I just know they orchestrated some things that weren't within our rules."

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson told Judge the same thing in August 2010: "They definitely tried to hurt [Favre]," Peterson said. "They definitely went out of their way."

A little more than a year later, they tried to hurt Peterson, too. That was in December 2011, when Peterson said Saints safety Jabari Greer twisted his previously injured ankle at the bottom of a pile. At the time, Peterson's complaints seemed more silly than shocking. Greer twisted his ankle? Who does that sort of thing, Curley from the Three Stooges? But after news broke last week of the $50,000 bounty pool in New Orleans -- with players receiving extra money for knocking opposing stars out of the game -- Peterson's complaints from December look prescient. Ominous.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe took to Twitter last week to say, "You're talking about paying someone to intentionally injure someone else. They put people in jail for that."

Yes, they do. But I'm not sure the players should be held accountable by the law. By the league? Oh heavens, yes. Any player found guilty of participating in Gregg Williams' bounty scheme should be suspended for months, possibly the entire 2012 season.

Not to be maudlin about it, but this stuff is literally life and death. Don't tell me it's not, not when middle-aged former players are dying from football-caused dementia or committing suicide, as Dave Duerson and Andre Waters did, to avoid that fate. Given the lifelong destruction involved, it's monstrous that a coach would oversee -- and players would participate in -- a bounty system designed not just to win a game, but to destroy an opponent. They destroyed Favre on Jan. 24, 2010. They destroyed Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner one week earlier.

And think about the vicious, neck-wrenching hit in 2006 by the Washington Redskins -- Washington's defensive coordinator in 2006: Gregg Williams -- that tore off Peyton Manning's helmet, injured his neck and could well have been the catalyst for the career-threatening issue that cost him the 2011 season.

If the NFL determines Manning was the victim in 2006 of a bounty-collecting hit, a massive suspension should be administered to the players who did it. As for Gregg Williams, the mastermind not just of NFL defenses -- but of something much more nefarious?

It's like what Chris Kluwe said:

They put people in jail for that.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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