NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in this interview on Sirius NFL Radio that he’s more than willing to hear any new information from New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis when he meets with them about their appeals of suspensions Tuesday.
Payton has been suspended for the 2012 season and Loomis for the first eight games for their role in a bounty program, in which the league said players and coaches offered financial incentives to injure opponents. Goodell previously said he expects to make a decision on the appeal quickly.
“I’ve had an opportunity to sit with them several times,’’ Goodell said in the interview with Adam Schein and Jim Miller. “I’ve listened to them. I’ve tried to understand their perspective on what’s happened. They understand mine. If there is something I have not considered, I want to hear that, I want to understand it properly. Then, we’ll make a decision based on that new information.’’
But Goodell already has found the Saints guilty of some very serious charges. Barring a major new development, I wouldn’t expect him to rescind or lessen the suspensions. The Saints also were fined $500,000 and stripped of two draft picks. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt is appealing his suspension for the first six games of the season. Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely and has not appealed. Goodell stood firm when asked why he came down so hard on the Saints.
“I think (for) a couple of reasons,’’ Goodell said. “One, this is a very important policy for us. Anyone that violates this policy where you’re actually targeting players for injury is unacceptable under any terms. We’re going to be very aggressive in enforcing that. A second is this has been going on for three years. (For) three years, we’ve been getting denials and they’ve continued to violate the policy and, again, that is unacceptable. It’s something we’re going to continue to enforce very aggressively with making sure our players are as safe as possible when they’re on the field. Identifying a player to try to take them out for injury is not something we’re going to allow.’’
Goodell acknowledged that other teams have had incentive programs for such things as interceptions and sacks and clarified how what the Saints’ bounty program was different.
“First, some of those payments are called non-contract bonus payments,’’ Goodell said. “The problem with those payments is they escalate. They become difficult. As an example – the big hit. Well, is the big hit for taking somebody out or not taking somebody out? Is it for a legal hit or an illegal hit? We’re eliminating all of those non-contract bonus payments because of the escalation payments. Bounty payments are specific to identifying an opposing player and taking them out. That means getting them off the field, whether it’s a legal or illegal tactic. That’s just unacceptable in our game and we are not going to allow that obviously.’’
In related news, Goodell reportedly is meeting with leaders of the NFL Players Association on Monday. Goodell has not announced any disciplinary action for the 22 to 27 players the league has said were involved in the bounty program. Goodell has said he'll listen to recommendations from the union before making his decision on player discipline.