NFL Nation: New Orleans Hornets

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson doesn’t do a lot of media interviews. So, when he does one, it’s a pretty big deal.

Benson did a radio interview with WWL in New Orleans and talked about the Saints and the NBA’s Hornets, a team he recently acquired. We’ll leave the Hornets’ stuff for the NBA people and will cut right to what he had to say about the Saints.

The most significant thing Benson had to say was about the large photo of suspended coach Sean Payton (with the message, “Do your job’’) that recently was placed in the team’s indoor practice facility last week. Putting the photo there was Benson’s idea, according to assistant head coach Joe Vitt. Benson didn’t deny that at all.

In fact, he took it a step further and explained his logic behind having the photo put in place.

“This is going to be our motivation to get us in the Super Bowl in New Orleans,’’ Benson said.

Report: More trouble for Saints?

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
4:09
PM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeMickey Loomis
AP Photo/Bill HaberSaints' GM Mickey Loomis, already suspended for eight games next season, could be facing more punishment from the league.
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.

Give New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson credit for one thing. He’s not letting the whole saga of the bounty program keep him from moving on.

Benson reportedly has reached an agreement with the NBA to buy the New Orleans Hornets.

Benson has owned the Saints since 1985, and wasn’t always viewed favorably by fans. He reportedly wanted to move the Saints permanently to San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina. But former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue urged Benson to keep the team in New Orleans.

Benson did, and eventually worked out a long-term deal that included major upgrades to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Until the bounty program was exposed, the Saints have enjoyed an unprecedented era of success since 2006.

Maybe Benson can make a similar story out of the Hornets. But he also might want to get Saints quarterback Drew Brees signed to a long-term contract before the team’s offseason program starts Monday.

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