Arthur Blank talks Saints' penalties
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Tuesday became the first NFC South owner, including New Orleans' Tom Benson, to publicly address the NFL's punishments of the Saints for their three-year bounty program.
I mean Matt wasn't one of the players named. But, on the other hand, I'd be hard put to believe that he wasn't a target at some point, whether he was named or not.” -- Arthur Blank, on Matt Ryan being a target for Saints' bounties
Later Monday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer joined Blank in applauding the league's decision.
During a break from the owners meeting, Blank told ESPN.com that he totally backed commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to suspend coach Sean Payton for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games, fine the Saints $500,000 and ban former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely.
"I think the league has handled it well and appropriately," Blank said. "One of the other owners made this point, but I told the commissioner I totally agree with him, the NFL, outside of our stadiums, the only things we really own are our reputation, our integrity, our shield and the relationship and trust we have with our fans and our sponsors. Anything that's done that violates that or hurts that, is something that has to be dealt with. My view is that everything the commissioner has stood for since 2006, which has to do with the shield, the trust, the fans and player safety, etc. really that goes completely in the opposite direction based on the New Orleans experience.
"I think he dealt with it appropriately. I think it will be one of the most significant decisions he'll ever make as the commissioner. I think he'll be the commissioner for the next 30 years and I think people will look back and say he sent a message to the teams, the players, the coaches, everybody in the NFL and sent a message to the fans that 'This is not what we're going to have in this league.' I think it was appropriate. Obviously, it's going to be a hard hit on the Saints, but they'll recover and time will move on and it will be fine."
Glazer also cited player safety and the integrity of the game in lauding Goodell's punishments.
"The commissioner has made that a priority of his -- player safety and the integrity of the National Football League. I think everybody agrees there's no place for that in the National Football League," Glazer said. "I think the commissioner's actions were necessary for many reasons and I think everyone supports the commissioner and his decision-making process. You never want to see that type of thing happen. It was an important step to get that out of the game."
In the NFL report announcing the punishments, the league specifically named Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and retired NFL quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner as players who were targeted for injury in the bounty program. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was not named in the report, but the Falcons play the Saints twice a year and have one of the league's most intense rivalries.
"I mean Matt wasn't one of the players named," Blank said. "But, on the other hand, I'd be hard put to believe that he wasn't a target at some point, whether he was named or not."
Blank said the bounty program was wrong on every level.
"There's just not a place for that in the game," Blank said. "It's a tough game and you're supposed to be physical, etc. but there's a line there. It's not even a fine line. It's a bright line that you just can't cross."
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