New Orleans Saints: Roger Goodell
Lofton told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that “there’s no accountability in that” and “it’s kind of a double standard.” And he doesn’t feel that one man should have all that power.
“I think that you can’t handle situations one way, but when you are involved in a situation do the complete opposite. I think that there’s no accountability in that. Something needs to change,” said Lofton, who joined the Saints in 2012, during the middle of the bounty fallout, as some of the most severe punishments in NFL history were being handed out and fought via appeal.
“One man has all the power and there’s no checks and balances. So there needs to be a change, and it definitely needs to start with that,” Lofton continued. “I think as players it’s frustrating and you’re upset about it, because whenever a guy messes up, there are consequences, and we all preach about ‘protecting the shield, protecting the shield.’ But when the commissioner doesn’t protect the shield, what comes of it? What consequences does he face and is he having to deal with? There hasn’t been anything. So I think it’s kind of a double standard.”
Anderson also reported that former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told her via text that he didn’t even “waste my time” watching Goodell’s news conference on Friday.
Former Saints who were affected by the bounty scandal like Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith, Jabari Greer and Scott Shanle have been vocal and critical of that same double standard in recent weeks. However, coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and other current Saints have mostly reserved their comments on Goodell’s handling of the Rice investigation.
Offensive tackle Zach Strief summed things up best last week when he said he doesn’t know what Goodell should be held accountable for and what he shouldn’t during the latest investigation. But he quickly added that he will “always feel” that Goodell was “100 percent” wrong in his handling of the Saints’ bounty investigation and that Goodell was proven wrong when all of his player suspensions were vacated on appeal by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
METAIRIE, La. -- Former New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer offered strong opinions on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell while serving as a guest analyst Thursday on ESPN. Greer described Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice investigation as "ignorant," and he said he believes that players around the league have "no compassion at all" for Goodell's plight.
Greer recalled when Goodell came to speak to players from each of the 32 teams at the time of the 2011 lockout. Greer said, "The consensus was, 'This guy has nothing to do with us.' He was taking heat from all 32 teams. There was a big rift in players and ownership, and we saw that Roger Goodell was on ownership's side."
"There is no compassion from players for Roger Goodell in this moment. No compassion at all," Greer said.
Goodell's handling of the Rice investigation has received increasing scrutiny, with questions about whether the commissioner had access -- or should have had access -- to a tape showing Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator.
Asked later for his thoughts on how Goodell has handled the Rice investigation, Greer said, "It's went from negligent to downright ignorant. I don't want to be harsh with my words, but it seems now that it is becoming a circus. Although we don't know whether he saw the tape or not, just the way the whole situation is developing, I don't agree with."
Greer said he knows from experience how thorough Goodell's investigation was into the Saints' bounty allegations in 2012, when coach Sean Payton was suspended for a full season, among other severe punishments. And Greer said he believes players such as Vilma and Will Smith were unfairly "vilified."
Some in the media have begun to make a similar comparison, saying that Goodell should be held to the same harsh standard to which he held Saints leaders in 2012. At the time, Goodell said of Payton, "Even if you aren't aware of something, you should be aware of something like that in your organization. That is his direct responsibility as the supervisor of players and coaches, and he should have known what was going on in his organization."
Current Saints players have been more measured with their words when asked to make that comparison, though, and Payton reiterated Thursday that he hasn't given it much thought.
"Our focus really has been on Cleveland [New Orleans' Week 2 opponent]," Payton said. "Yesterday I said it, and I'll say it again today: When you look at our work week and our work days, our time and energy from morning 'til evening is on the opponent. I understand the question, but that's what I would say."
Asked if it feels good that people seem to be coming to his defense, in a way, Payton said, "It's immaterial. In other words, we said at the time what we had to say, and we'll leave it at that."
At the time, Goodell punished the Saints at the highest level, from ownership to the general manager to the coaching staff, claiming ignorance was not a defense if they weren't aware of the defense's alleged pay-for-performance bounty program.
Saints players and coaches were asked about that parallel on Wednesday. Everyone gave a similar response, saying they didn't know enough about the specific details in this case to pass judgment. But as Drew Brees said, Goodell does deserve to be held accountable for his actions as much as any player.
"We're all held accountable for our actions as players. Certainly every owner should be held accountable for their actions. The commissioner should be held accountable for his actions," Brees said. "I don't know the full story. I don't know who all does, but I think that's what is trying to be found out here. But everyone deserves to be held accountable for their actions, because certainly that's the expectation for players."
Coach Sean Payton said he hasn't given it much thought.
"With where we're at today and coming off a tough loss, that's like 150th on my priorities right now," Payton said. "Obviously I've seen the video [of Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator], and it’s disturbing. What else can you say? In regards to the league office, that's their issue to handle. For me there's too many other things right now that we're having to take care of."
Offensive tackle Zach Strief, who also spoke frankly about how disturbing the video was earlier this week, said he doesn't know how much fault belongs to Goodell in this case. But he still believes Goodell was wrong in the bounty case, when he handed out unprecedented punishments to Saints players and coaches. The player suspensions (including Vilma's season-long ban) were later overturned by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to handle the appeals.
"I don’t know what he should be held accountable for and what he shouldn't. I don't know what he knew," Strief said of Goodell. "Am I defensive of our situation here? Absolutely? Do I think he was wrong? One hundred percent. I think it was proven he was wrong. I think they went back and they got another commissioner that looked at the situation and said, 'This was handled incorrectly.' And I will always feel that way. Coach Payton lost a season, and it wasn't fair. That's what I know. But we've moved on from it, it's over.
"I don't know who even holds [Goodell] responsible, to be honest with you. That’s up to somebody else, not me."
Meanwhile, Saints guard Ben Grubbs spoke about Rice on a more personal level, since the two were teammates with the Baltimore Ravens before Grubbs signed with the Saints in 2012.
"I'm definitely disappointed in Ray. I love Ray. He was a great teammate to me. And he's a guy that is very lovable. But to see that, I immediately said, 'That’s not the Ray that I know,'" Grubbs said. "So I just hope the best for them, being married [myself] over a year now, and they are newlyweds. It's going to be tough. It's a road they can travel, but they're gonna need definitely the good lord with them. And I'm praying for them. And I just hope everything works out in their best interest."
Vilma’s opinion is especially interesting since he was once suspended a full year by Goodell for allegations of offering a bounty on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre -- a suspension that was later overturned on appeal by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to handle the bounty suspension appeals.
If the commissioner had really asked for the video, he would've made it very public & very clear that the casino refused to give it to him.— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 10, 2014
I know firsthand the commissioner will go to great lengths to "gather all evidence" but he purposely did not in this instance. Appalling.— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 10, 2014
He should be held accountable for his lack of action just like Ray Rice has finally been held accountable for his actions.— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 10, 2014
- Asked about his relationship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being on opposite sides of the CBA negotiations and the Saints' bounty scandal, Brees paused before saying: “I mean, fine. I can’t say that I’ve talked to him in three years.” Brees said, “I’m not one to hold a grudge.” And he said Goodell has done some good things as a commissioner and he believes both of them want to leave the game better than they found it. But Brees said it’s clear that Goodell works for the owners, so players will often be on the other side of league issues.Brees
- When asked in general if he feels any lingering bitterness over the bounty scandal, Brees said, “No. No. Because I’m so positive and try to turn negative situations into positive ones.” He said he thinks the Saints are a better team and Sean Payton is a better coach after going through that hardship, comparing it to when he was benched by the San Diego Chargers early in his career. However, Brees said, “I will always be disappointed that I feel like I let Sean down [by going 7-9 that year]. We wanted to win so bad for him and the situation. But that’s the only thing that I still feel.”
- Brees also reflected to his choice to play for the Saints instead of the Miami Dolphins in 2006, when Miami had more concerns about his surgically-repaired shoulder. “Who knows what would have happened in Miami?” Brees said. “[But] I got to play for Sean Payton. He’s been so instrumental in my development as a quarterback. He’s given me so much confidence in myself. He’s built this system around my strengths. Would that have happened in Miami? No, because there wasn’t a Sean Payton there.”
- Brees talked more about this lofty goal of playing until he’s 45. He mentioned pitcher Nolan Ryan as an example of what he’s envisioning – as long as he stays healthy and keeps playing at a high level. “I don’t wanna just be bumming around this league at age 45.”
- Brees said breaking all of the NFL passing records is lower on his list of priorities. When asked what he’d like to legacy to be, Brees said, “What I want people to say about me is that I was a great football player, that I cared about my teammates. I want people to say, ‘Man, I would have loved to play with that guy.’”
Smith and Vilma have been important cogs on this defense for a long time. They also are revered in New Orleans. Their status only grew last year when they avoided the suspensions NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to give them during the bounty scandal.
Vilma and Smith appealed at every juncture and that strategy worked.
But there’s no appealing their current situations. Vilma and Smith each took pay cuts to remain with the Saints this year. But age and injuries are catching up to them.
Smith has a ridiculous salary-cap figure for 2014. Vilma hasn’t been an elite player for several years.
The Saints need to start getting younger on defense. They’re already working on that with Smith out for the season and Vilma’s status uncertain for this year.
But, no matter how you look at it, it seems highly unlikely Vilma and Smith will be with the Saints in 2014.