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Drew Brees: System not transparent

METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees was critical Wednesday of the way NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has handled disciplinary issues in recent years - including the New Orleans Saints' bounty investigation.

And Brees said he hopes the NFL's latest controversies will finally lead to a new disciplinary system that is fair, transparent and includes the NFL Players Association and independent experts instead of the "unilateral" system that has been in place with "no checks and balances."

"Too many times, I'd say especially over the last few years, a punishment's been handed down and nobody has really seen the evidence except for those in the league office -- supposedly," Brees said. "So decisions were made in kind of a, 'Hey, trust us.' But did the public see any of the facts? Did the accused see any of the facts? In most cases, no."

Those were the biggest complaints among Saints players and the NFL Players Association during the drawn-out fight over bounty suspensions in 2012 -- which ultimately led to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacating all of Goodell's player punishments.

Saints leaders such as coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis, however, had no such recourse with which to fight against Goodell's severe punishments since Goodell handed out the discipline and heard the appeal.

"That's why you have multiple parties to make sure everyone comes together, cooler heads prevail. The decision isn't just based on emotion at the time, which I can say I believe has happened in the past in regards to commissioner discipline. It's been based upon emotion as opposed to maybe the facts," Brees said. "And (a new disciplinary policy would) prevent that from ever happening again."

Brees also echoed the sentiment of many former Saints players and media analysts who have pointed out that Goodell has not been held accountable for mistakes made during the investigation of Ray Rice's domestic violence incident. And Goodell is not holding himself to the same standard to which he held Saints leaders to in the bounty punishments.

"I think it's a great tie-in because obviously the same things that I've heard, the same things that I feel (about Goodell) are the quotes that were thrown out at members of the Saints organization in regards to why they were being punished," Brees said. "Things such as, 'Ignorance is no excuse,' and, 'if you didn't know you should've known,' are things that would absolutely apply in this case, except the roles are reversed and it's going back at Commisioner Goodell and the league office."

When asked if he feels that Goodell should step down after the way he's handled such issues as the Rice investigation, Brees said, "That's not up to me. I'm more focused on the solution, as far as creating and then maintaining policies that you can be consistent with and open with and transparent with, and bringing together all parties that should be involved. The players association, the NFL league office and independent experts."

Offensive tackle Zach Strief, who serves as the Saints' union rep, told reporters that he doesn't believe Goodell should lose his job. But he suggested that a season-long suspension would be a fitting punishment for Goodell since that's what Goodell handed Payton.

"What is the precedent for making a colossal mistake?" Strief told reporters. "The precedent has been you missed a season. It's very simple. The exact situation has already happened, and it happened here. There was a punishment and that was the punishment.

"Unfortunately for Roger, he set the precedent. He said, 'You made a big mistake, it cost the league, it's harmed the shield.' Here's what it was before. To me, that's the only fair thing. Not that that matters."

Strief also agreed with Brees on the need for a more transparent disciplinary process.

"That's why the players have forever wanted an independent appeal process or arbiter, because at the end of the day Roger is not perfect. And the system is now in place with that assumption - that Roger is going to know exactly what to do in every situation, and it clearly is incorrect," Strief said. "It's been proven many times over, and to be honest with you, I don't necessarily think that Roger is trying to do the wrong stuff. But he's a human. And saying that he's the end-all, be-all no matter what in any situation is saying that he is always going to be right. It's silly.

"So there needs to be a system of checks and balances in place, and I think there needs to be transparency in how that all goes down. I'm tired of this veil of secrecy behind it. You get stuck in a situation where nobody has a clue what's going on, you deal with assumptions, and it's a circus."

Brees, who recently stepped down after years spent as a member of the NFLPA executive committee, said this has long been an issue with players. Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, also a former NFLPA executive committee member, has made similar comments in the past week.

"I think that this has been a long time coming," Brees said. "It's really unfortunate that all of this had to happen in order for this to transpire or for this to become evident.

"But now the public knows, certainly the fan community knows, and it seems like that's gonna happen, which is a very good thing. And it's the right thing."