SBD/Issue 161/Franchises

Saints Stay Quiet On Vicodin Suit As Opposing Attorney Opens Up

Saints Remaining Silent Regarding
Allegations Peyton Abused Vicodin

The Saints yesterday "maintained a careful silence" as the lawsuit from former team Security Dir Geoffrey Santini "hung in the air," according to James Varney of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Saints "stood pat on statements released" over the weekend by VP/Communications Greg Bensel and coach Sean Payton. Meanwhile, Santini's attorney, Donald Hyatt, said the lawsuit is based on Louisiana state "whistleblower" protection laws. He said that Santini was "forced to tender his resignation, which he did in August 2009, because Saints executives made him uncomfortable when he persisted in warning them that felonies had occurred in the team's facility." Hyatt: "I would say there is a lot of evidence that points to a serious problem there that the Saints didn't want to address." Varney notes the team's statements "dismissed Santini's claims as those of a disgruntled former employee." But Hyatt yesterday "bristled at such language, which he said accused his client of extortion or a shake down." He added, "If this was all a shake down I'd have filed the suit on the Friday before the Super Bowl at 9 a.m. when the court opened and then just watched them try to concentrate on the game" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/4). Hyatt yesterday also denied that the legal action "resulted from an attempt to extort money" from the Saints. He did note, though, that there "have been settlement discussions." He said, "They didn't go very far, but they were discussions. ... I thought a settlement would have been a better route the whole time, but they didn't want to listen." Bensel in a statement said that the Saints "would aggressively defend the false allegations in court" (USA TODAY, 5/4).

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported the NFL Finance Committee, which is chaired by Saints Owner Tom Benson, is meeting this week in N.Y., and there is a “sequence of events that is taking place … that will obviously put this on the commissioner's radar.” It figures that “there is going to be some discussion” between Benson and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “about this larger issue at play regarding the civil suit and the Vicodin claims.” La Canfora: “Where it goes from there remains to be seen. Generally, the league has taken their cues from law enforcement and allowed all the facts to be brought to light before weighing in and deciding what should be done at a league level. But at least in terms of discussion, communication, those lines will be open this week in New York" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 5/4). In N.Y., Gary Myers reports although the league "did not confirm the Vicodin scandal was talked about" when Goodell and Benson initially met yesterday, it "seems logical that it worked its way into the conversation" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/4).

SO MUCH FOR THE AFTERGLOW: The DAILY NEWS' Myers writes it is "not unusual for a controversy to get in the way of a team attempting to repeat as Super Bowl champs," but the "greatest feel-good story in NFL history ... couldn't even make it to training camp before football became overshadowed by non-football." Payton is "going to have to do some major damage control on his good-guy image in the next few weeks and it's going to take more than just issuing a statement." Training camp is three months away, which gives Payton and the Saints "time to figure out how to minimize this as a distraction as the lawsuit drags out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/4). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige called the investigation "sad" after the "euphoria that the city went through" after winning the Super Bowl. Paige: "Now you have to drag the commissioner back into another off-season (incident). He's going to have to make decisions no matter what happens." FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti: "It's a major deal and involves a wonderful story. All of a sudden you've got a cloud over it." ESPN.com's J.A. Adande: "This is the tough position that Roger Goodell has placed himself in now because he doesn't require an indictment or conviction in order to levy a suspension. Is he going to be just as ... hard on a coach as he's been on his players?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/3).

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