SBD/April 10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL's Goodell Shows Some Leniency, But Denies Saints Appeal On Bounty Suspensions

Payton’s suspension, originally scheduled to begin April 1, will now start April 16
The NFL yesterday “upheld the season-long suspension” of Saints coach Sean Payton, as well as “the shorter suspensions” received by GM Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt as a result of the team's bounty scandal, according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Payton’s suspension without pay, “originally scheduled to begin April 1, will now start April 16, meaning the appeal gave him two extra weeks to prepare the Saints for the draft and beyond.” He will “not be allowed football-related contact with players or team officials during his suspension." The eight-game suspension of Loomis and the six-game suspension of Vitt “will begin at the end of the preseason.” The NFL in a statement said that “if everyone cooperated going forward,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “would consider reducing the financial penalties on Payton, Loomis and Vitt and altering the forfeiture of the Saints’ second-round draft choice in 2013 to a pick in a lower round.” And if the team “has a bad season in 2012 and the 2013 draft pick is high in the second round, the league would consider changing the punishment to several lower-round picks instead.” Battista notes Goodell “will consider reinstating Payton after the Super Bowl next February,” and Loomis and Vitt “will serve their suspensions and then be considered for reinstatement." The NFL investigation found that “22 to 27 players were involved, but the league is expected to discipline only a few of the defensive leaders.” Battista notes the NFLPA “has hired outside counsel, Richard Smith of Fulbright & Jaworski, to advise it on the bounty case and to provide representation if criminal charges are brought.” Reps of the union and the league also “met last week to review the NFL’s investigation.” The union “did not believe it was shown proof” that LB Jonathan Vilma “offered his own money or that the league had firmly established that Saints players went into games intending to injure their opponents.” NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, “We did meet with the league, and the information provided to us has not matched up with the leaks and the evidence in the public domain” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10).

THE SOFTER SIDE: Goodell said he would "consider mitigating the financial penalties" on the various individuals involved "if they embrace the opportunity" to assist in programs teaching players and coaches principles of player safety, fair play and sportsmanship. But CBSSPORTS.com’s Will Brinson wrote the fact that the Saints lost their appeal “isn’t particularly surprising” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/9). The AP’s Brett Martel wrote Goodell “showed leniency” in his statement yesterday (AP, 4/9). In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan wrote Goodell “dangled a couple of carrots” at the Saints as post-suspension rewards. If the team can “keep their noses clean and work with the league on some of their player-safey programs they could get their second-round pick back next season.” Duncan: “That’s big.” The league also said that it “will consider reducing the financial penalties on some individuals” (NOLA.com, 4/9).

WHO'S IN CHARGE? A league official said Payton is “not allowed to engage in any coaching activities.” The official said Goodell is “not naïve enough to think there won’t be some contact but (Payton’s) not allowed to coach from home. … If a player has a baby, can he call to congratulate him? I don’t think we’re going to worry about that, or have a wiretap on his phone” (ESPN.com, 4/9).
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Franchises, New Orleans Saints

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