Roger Goodell (US Presswire)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the Saints’ Bountygate scandal Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings, standing by his firm punishment of coaches and the GM and anticipating further player discipline.
The first phase of the punishment of the New Orleans Saints has come down in the form of a big, heavy hammer wielded by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended Gregg Williams indefinitely, Saints head coach Sean Payton for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis for half a season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. In addition, the franchise was fined $500,000 and will forfeit second-round draft picks each of the next two years.
The punishment has been harsh, but one that has largely been met with approval among NFL owners, who felt a precedent needed to be set, especially in light of an orchestrated cover-up after the fact that earned it the “-gate” status in Bountygate.
At the owners meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the media concerning the Saints issue. Specifically, he responded to a question pertaining to the outrage Saints fans held over the severity of the punishment to the front office co-conspirators in the bounty scheme. After surviving Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, fans clung to the Saints with adoration rarely seen in the fandom of pro spots. Goodell said he sympathizes with their shock at the announcement of front office suspensions, fines and draft pick forfeiture, but said a precedent needed to be established that such actions won’t be tolerated.
“I understand the frustration of Saints fans and I have great respect for them,” Goodell said. “We will be there with them for the Super Bowl at the conclusion of this coming season. I worked very closely as we were getting the Saints re-established after the hurricane, so I saw firsthand the Saints passion and their fans’ passion. I clearly understand that frustration, but everyone has to understand that there are 32 teams and everybody is going to have to operate under the same rules. If we don’t do that, the integrity of the game – and what the fans love about the game – will be impacted negatively. That is my responsibility.”
The second part of the Goodell hammer of justice has yet to drop. He has yet to mete out the punishment for the players. It is believed that the Saints need to know how many players may be suspended and how long they could be sidelined with suspensions while free agency is still underway and the draft looming in less than a month. Goodell intends to reach out to the players association.
“I’m sensitive to that,” Goodell said of a timetable for handing down player fine/suspension rulings. “We certainly are going to proceed as quickly as possible. I had mentioned to you that I had spoken with several dozen players. We have additional people we need to speak to and I think the most important issue that I need to speak to is the NFLPA – which I expect to do before the end of the week. I hope that they will be in a position to give me a recommendation at that point in time that I can consider.”
While no player is likely to get suspended the term that Williams, Payton, Loomis or Vitt did – with the possible exception of Jonathan Vilma – it would appear Goodell isn’t done handing down his tough brand of justice.
“I have been pretty clear that I hold coaches and executives to a higher standard,” Goodell said. “It is an important element of what the NFL is all about. It is clear from the information that players enthusiastically embraced (the bounty program) and pushed this. That is troubling to me. I have said that before. We will have to look into who is involved, how much they were involved and what influence they had. I will have to do the best I can to make that judgment on how that should be handled from a discipline standpoint.”
Sen. Julie Rosen (IR-Fairmont), the Senate sponsor of the current Vikings stadium bill, said Wednesday that she anticipates the bill will get another hearing after two weeks of inactivity where the bill remains mired, in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. The committee hasn’t met in two weeks and, since then, the Minneapolis City Council gave its support to the project. The biggest current sticking point, according to Rosen, is how the new tax money generated from the charitable gambling initiatives as part of the state funding package will be divided. It sounds a little like the NFL-NFLPA dispute in that there is enough money around to eventually make everybody happy.
The NFL owners adopted a pair of significant rules changes for the 2012 season Wednesday. First, they approved expanding the overtime rule instituted for the playoffs (following the Vikings overtime loss to the Saints in which they never touched the ball in the final period) for the regular season. If a team gets the kickoff in overtime and kicks a field goal, the other team will have a chance to possess the ball. Second, the league expanded replay that reviews all touchdowns to review all turnovers. This has been the source of numerous challenges in recent years, which could greatly reduce the number of coaching challenges.
The owners continued discussion of pushing the trade deadline back from Week 6 of the NFL regular season to Week 8 until its May meetings.
The Vikings will have more than a passing interest in today’s workout for scouts and NFL decision-makers by Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If he has a lights-out type of workout, he not only could solidify his draft position to Cleveland at No. 4, if another team becomes enamored with him, they may come calling to the Vikings at No. 3.
Brett Favre haters can kick rocks on this: In what skeptics will view as a move designed to continue the ongoing fence-mending between Favre and the Packers but most will see as a selfless gesture, Favre and his wife Deanna visited members of the Wisconsin National Guard with 1157th Transportation Company stationed at Camp Shelby near Favre’s home in Hattiesburg, Miss. The unit is based out of Oshkosh, Wis., and was deployed to Mississippi for training before being deployed to Afghanistan. Favre didn’t promote the event, but, as is always the case, cameras followed his humanitarian gesture – something that seems to get lost in the rash of Favre-bashing that is so prevalent these days.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.