Ken Kutska, Assistant A&E Editor

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Injuries are commonplace in football; it’s the nature of the game. But when players are intentionally targeted and injured, it becomes a topic ripe with controversy. The NFL’s New Orleans Saints have been under scrutiny of late for just that.

From 2009 to as recently as last season, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gary Williams inducted a bounty player system to his defense. This system was set up to pay defensive players for injuring opposing players.

The investigation by NFL executives and the National Football Leagues Players Association (NFLPA) revealed the bounty via evidence from a studio filmmaker doing a piece on a Saints player in the 2009 season and other reports. The piece was supposed to be on former Saints defensive player Dan Gleason who suffers from Lou Gehrigs Disease (ALS). Incriminating audio given to the NFL office and lead to an indefinite suspension for Gary Williams, defensive coordinator for the Saint Louis Rams. Head coach Sean Payton, who failed to inform the league of the program and didn’t do enough to stop it, was suspended for the entire 2012 season.

General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six. All of these penalties aren’t anywhere near enough. More needs to happen to these coaches and front office executives. The 22-27 players who were either involved or participated in the bounty system are current or former Saints players. Each player should be banned for life or suspended for how many games they participated in the program.

It is sick to think about the possible career ending injuries that were inflicted by Saints players. It’s hard to believe this came as a shock to the NFL front office, which apparently knew about it during the 2012 playoffs. The league told the Saints to stop the program immediately or action would be taken. They should have taken action right then and there but they didn’t want a big investigation to take place during the season, which would have distracted the nation from the spectacle of playoffs and the Super Bowl.

The evidence of which players were involved could be damning for the Saints, but the full letter of the law should fall on these individuals. The faster the investigation the better, but hopefully the length of the investigation will allow all the evidence to be produced so the league can make the right decision. 49er fans should be livid at the antics of the New Orleans Saints for the possible injustice that took place at the NFC division playoff game.

Could one of those hits on a player in that game have affected the performance of players in the NFC Championship against the New York Giants? It makes you wonder if Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis were not 100 percent and caused slack play in some players.

It also brings up a point to that this can’t be an isolated incident. Other teams that Gary Williams has worked for are also being investigated to see if there was a bounty program on those teams, from the Washington Redskins to the Buffalo Bills.

It brings up a scary point that players are going out there to injure and lay other players out just for money. This is supposed to be a game of distinction and sportsmanship. This scandal deserves a loss of respect for the game of football and should makes fans question if tackles or hits are for money. Fans should also wonder, when players are fined for low, high or late hits, if they were on purpose. It seems like a lot of the same players get fined because of that reason and the league is supposed to be watching player safety.