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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Arthur Blank: Saints crossed line

By Pat Yasinskas

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time since the story of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program broke, we’ve got an NFC South owner commenting publicly on the situation.

It’s not New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. It’s Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. During a break in the owners meeting, Blank was asked for his reaction to the heavy punishments given to the Saints. Blank stood firmly behind NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decisions.

“I think the league has handled it well and appropriately,’’ Blank said. “One of the other owners made this point, but I told the commissioner I totally agree with him, the NFL, outside of our stadiums, the only things we really own are our reputation, our integrity, our shield and the relationship and trust we have with our fans and our sponsors. Anything that’s done that violates that or hurts that, is something that has to be dealt with. My view is that everything the commissioner has stood for since 2006, which has to do with the shield, the trust, the fans and player safety, etc. really that goes completely in the opposite direction based on the New Orleans experience.

“I think he dealt with it appropriately. I think it will be one of the most significant decisions he’ll ever make as the commissioner. I think he’ll be the commissioner for the next 30 years and I think people will look back and say he sent a message to the teams, the players, the coaches, everybody in the NFL and sent a message to the fans that 'This is not what we’re going to have in this league.' I think it was appropriate. Obviously, it’s going to be a hard hit on the Saints, but they’ll recover and time will move on and it will be fine.’’

I asked Blank if he was angered when he saw the details the NFL released from its investigation on how specific players were targeted for bounties. Blank’s team plays the Saints twice each season and the owner has millions of dollars invested in quarterback Matt Ryan and other players.

“I mean, Matt wasn’t one of the players named,’’ Blank said. “But, on the other hand, I’d be hard put to believe that he wasn’t a target at some point, whether he was named or not.

“There’s just not place for that in the game. It’s a tough game and you’re supposed to be physical, etc. but there’s a line there. It’s not even a fine line. It’s a bright line that you just can’t cross.’’