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Thursday, March 22, 2012
Around the NFC South: Bounty edition

By Pat Yasinskas

On this Thursday morning, the punishment of the New Orleans Saints for the bounty program continues to dominate the news stories and opinion pieces around the NFC South. As a matter of fact, there are virtually no non-Saints headlines across the division. So let's take a run through what's being talked about.

This editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune says that Saints fans deserve more of an explanation of why the penalties against the Saints were so harsh. I think there was plenty of explanation in the report the NFL released to the media. It was, by far, the most detailed report I’ve seen on an NFL disciplinary matter. It named names and went into deep detail. If you really want more of an explanation than that, be careful what you wish for. There could be even more things that loyal fans don’t want to hear.

Here’s an unflattering portrayal of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is the target of wrath for many Saints fans. I understand that, but I think they’re way off target and blind in their loyalty. Goodell wasn’t the one who broke rules, lied and didn’t listen to his boss. Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt were the ones that did all that. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s kind of amazing how their can be such strongly different reactions to the same thing in different areas. Atlanta columnist Jeff Schultz thoroughly agrees with Goodell’s decision.

Same thing in Charlotte, where columnist Tom Sorensen wrote that Goodell didn’t undermine football, “he preserved it’’.

In Tampa, columnist Marty Fennelly writes that there’s blood in the NFC South water and it’s time for the Buccaneers to strike. The Bucs have some major building to do, and as long as they have Drew Brees, the Saints aren’t going to simply fall apart. But it’s a valid point. There have been plenty of instances of teams going from worst to first in the NFC South, and there’s little doubt the Bucs have improved their roster with what they’ve done so far this offseason.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said it was very disappointing to see franchise quarterback Cam Newton named as one of the players the Saints targeted with their bounty program. Carolina veteran offensive tackle Jordan Gross said the bounty program was “appalling,” but added he wasn’t surprised to hear about it.

Goodell said he expects to meet with NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith and union leaders soon. He said he’ll listen to their recommendations for penalties against players involved in the bounty system. But the ultimate decision rests with Goodell. Given the severity of Wednesday’s penalties against coaches and the front office, I’d expect the punishment for players will involve suspensions and heavy fines.