- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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In an offseason that has been filled with controversy for the New Orleans Saints, we now have even more.
This one doesn’t relate to the bounty program, but it could have major implications.
ESPN's "Outside The Lines" just reported that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis allegedly had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been secretly re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs for nearly three seasons, from 2002-04. That allegedly took place before coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006. Sources told "Outside The Lines" that the listening system was disabled when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and not restored. (Greg Bensel, Saints vice president of communications, said Monday on behalf of the Saints and Loomis: "This is 1,000 percent false. This is 1,000 percent inaccurate.")
This is significant on several levels. First, the report suggests that state and federal law might have been violated, and the situation has been reported to the U.S. Attorney in New Orleans. There is no indication yet if any charges will be filed. We’ll wait for law enforcement and the lawyers to figure that out. I won't even speculate about what civil liabilities Loomis and the Saints could be exposed to.
But there are huge potential implications elsewhere. Loomis is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 season for his role in not stopping the Saints’ bounty program. This latest news isn’t going to persuade commissioner Roger Goodell to shorten Loomis’ suspension.
In fact, this has the potential to lead to a longer suspension, or even more punishment for Loomis and the Saints. Although this incident allegedly took place quite a long time ago, it won't sit well with Goodell. He fined the New England Patriots $750,000 and forced them to forfeit a first-round draft pick for Spygate. You can make a case that listening to opposing coaches during a game is worse than videotaping signals on the sidelines and using that information.
Throw in the whole situation surrounding the bounty system, and I don’t see how this can lead to anything positive for Loomis or the Saints.
Saints owner Tom Benson has stood by Loomis and Payton, who is suspended for the entire 2012 season. But you must wonder if news of more alleged wrongdoing by Loomis might prompt Benson to fire his general manager.
I know Benson has other things going on. He recently purchased the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. Brees hasn’t been able to work out a long-term contract with the Saints, and that’s not a positive for Brees, Benson or the Saints. The team is waiting to see if players will be suspended for their roles in the bounty program. Benson also reportedly has put his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, on unofficial administrative leave. LeBlanc had been viewed as the heir apparent to Benson, but it doesn’t sound as if the owner is anywhere near ready to step aside.
That might be a good thing, because the Saints have all sorts of turmoil to deal with. Someone must clean up this mess. It’s Benson’s team, so we’ll wait and see where he goes from here.
This offseason just keeps getting worse for the Saints.
3dEric D. Williams
3dEric D. Williams