NFL Nation: Rita Benson LeBlanc

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

WATFORD, England -- Saints executive vice president Rita Benson LeBlanc, the daughter of owner Tom Benson, said there will be a New Orleans feel to Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The game with San Diego, after all, technically is a "home'' game for the Saints. They'll try to take advantage of that and boost the profile of New Orleans and the NFL.

"The exterior of Wembley Stadium itself is going to have all the manner of fan festival, the lights, the spirit and all the musical elements as far as those things that are really true to New Orleans and our culture,'' LeBlanc said. "In fact, to help our economy back home, they're also using a New Orleans-based company that does that sort of production all over the world.

"They'll have a parade type element with a giant-sized football player at the front, which is very near and dear as far as Mardi Gras sentimentality for New Orleans. You'll get a feel for that.''

Although the Saints will have only seven games at the Superdome, LeBlanc said many fans from New Orleans have decided to plan vacations to London around the game.

"We have 4,000 to 5,000 season ticket holders and people that we've been in touch with that we expect to be coming over,'' LeBlanc said. "Our season-ticket holders and suite holders and sponsors had first priority first on tickets before they went out to the mass public. It's been exciting to see that many people travel. In New Orleans, we like to party and celebrate a little bit. You'll see some black and gold New Orleans fans running around London and having fun.''

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