- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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One of the most intriguing revelations in the story was that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he and Goodell haven’t talked much since Goodell replaced him as commissioner and that “Bountygate didn’t help.”
Tagliabue was brought in at the tail end of the NFL’s 2012 investigation into the Saints’ alleged pay-for-injury program to hear the appeals of four players who were suspended by Goodell. Tagliabue vacated all four suspensions.
Although Tagliabue strongly rebuked the Saints for wrongdoing, he found that there was no justification for such unprecedented punishments against the players -- stressing that the punishments were more for pregame “talk” than any actual misconduct on the field.
"I talked to him after I issued the bounty decision," Tagliabue told GQ. "I explained I was doing it and why. He didn't think I would vacate all the discipline. He said, 'I was surprised where you came out.'"
Tagliabue only ruled on player suspensions, so the unprecedented punishments against the organization, coaches and general manager Mickey Loomis all remained -- including a full-season suspension for coach Sean Payton.
The GQ report also quoted Houston Texans owner Bob McNair as saying that when Saints owner Tom Benson resigned from three league committees in 2013, Goodell’s pay package and his handling of Bountygate were two of the reasons -- though GQ said that Benson denied that through a spokesman.