For many NFL players, if not all, the intent to injure another player doesn't fall within the NFL code.
Veteran linebacker London Fletcher played three seasons for Gregg Williams in Buffalo and Washington. So when he heard about the allegations stemming from an NFL investigation that the veteran coach institutionalized a "bounty" system with the New Orleans Saints that rewarded players for intentionally injuring others, Fletcher said he was "shocked."
To his knowledge, Fletcher said there was never such a system in Buffalo, where he played two seasons for Williams as a head coach, or in his season as defensive coordinator with the Redskins. Like teammate Fred Smoot, Fletcher said a "bounty" system didn't happen in Washington.
"In my 14 years in the NFL, rarely do you have a player say, 'I want to injure another player. I want to hurt another player,'" Fletcher said in an interview with NFL.com. "There's a brotherhood amongst us. We all play this game. We're trying to make money, support our families. This is our livelihoods. To go out and intentionally hurt someone, that's not the mind set."
What takes the allegations to unprecedented territory for Fletcher, as well as others, is the idea of the premeditated nature of causing injury. As far as Fletcher is concerned, "that doesn't happen" in the NFL. While retaliation is more common during games, the distinction is that it's widely considered nothing more than payback. And it's not about money.
"You want to play a physical game," Fletcher said. "That's what we sign up for. It's not touch football.
"But as far as (unwritten rules), there are no times where you go into a game wanting to knock a guy out or take his knee out. Now, if a guy does something to you during the course of a game, where you may want revenge, then absolutely. That's not about any money."
While payments between players for big plays falls within the accepted lines for players, veteran offensive lineman David Diehl believes the involvement of coaches and the intention to injure doesn't fit within the integrity of the game. Diehl said he has never come across a player who went beyond retaliatory hits involving payments.
"I think there's an unwritten code, and unwritten rule, almost, that you don't want to end anyone's career," Diehl told NFL.com. "One, I don't think you do that. Two, I think karma is going to come back and get you.
"I think there's a big difference when you're talking about a "hit" pool (or for big plays) versus an injury pool. I think those are different entities."
Diehl intimated the systematic nature of the allegations against Williams and the Saints takes the conversation to a point beyond what is, although perhaps unwritten, also unacceptable within the fraternity.
"To sit here and say it was an institutional thing, that it wasn't players, that the organization knew, that they were part of it and coaches were throwing in money, that's a whole different standard," Diehl said. "That's a whole different thing. It's disappointing. It's bad for the game."