Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Report: Saints players not off hook
ESPN.com news services
Commissioner Roger Goodell said he expects discipline for New Orleans Saints players to be announced soon and that he rejects any defense that they were merely following orders.
"The evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this," Goodell said in a podcast with NFL Network host Rich Eisen, which was excerpted on NFL.com. "They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the program and they actually are the ones playing the game. They are on the field so I don't think they are absolved from any responsibility because of that."
But player penalties were not expected to be announced Tuesday, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Goodell met with NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith and members of the union's executive committee on Monday.
"I am not necessarily looking for their recommendation on discipline," Goodell told Eisen on the podcast, which is scheduled to air on Wednesday night. "I am looking for their recommendation on what we do to continue to make our game safer and to get this type of activity out of the game and get back to the point where we have respect for each other and the game itself."
League counsel Jeff Pash said Friday he expects Goodell to punish players soon for their role in the bounty system, which paid bonuses for hits leading to opponents being forced from the game or carried off the field.
Goodell already has suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season and fined the team $500,000. Saints former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely and interim coach Joe Vitt begins serving his six-game suspension at the end of the preseason.
Vitt, in his first meeting with reporters since being named Payton's proxy, denied that Saints players tried to hurt people.
"At no time did any of our players cross the white line with the intention of hurting another player," Vitt said Tuesday in first meeting with reporters since being named Payton's proxy."Now, that being said, I'm serving a six-game suspension for the spoken word, not the clenched fist and I am on board with the commissioner 100 percent on player safety."
Meanwhile, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who begins an eight-game ban after the preseason, faces new allegations.
Sources have told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told Friday that Loomis 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 NFL seasons.
A team spokesman, speaking on behalf of the Saints and Loomis, said those allegations are "1,000 percent false" and "1,000 percent inaccurate."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.