Goodell To Confer With NFLPA's Smith Before Announcing Bountygate Player Punishment
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell likely did not include player discipline in yesterday's Bountygate penalties because he is "attempting to keep a good relationship" with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith by "including Smith in the loop,” according to SI.com’s Peter King. In addition, one of the players who has "admitted making contributions to a pay-for-performance pool, linebacker Scott Fujita, is now one of the most respected leaders of the union's 11-man Executive Board, and worked diligently to increase player safety" in last summer's CBA negotiations. King notes Saints LB Jonathan Vilma "seems like the player in most trouble with Goodell, and is almost certain to get a multi-game suspension for his brazen offer" to pay any player on the defense $10,000 for knocking then-Vikings QB Brett Favre out of the '10 NFC Championship Game (SI.com, 3/22).
POWER OF THE COMMISH: SI.com's Don Banks noted the Saints' penalties "may eventually prompt a discussion and debate about the far-reaching powers of the NFL commissioner's office, and whether or not the penalties meted out by Goodell went too far for the league's own good." Player safety has become the "central tenet of the Goodell administration, and for better or for worse, he believes it's his job to continue taking the game down that road." Banks wrote, "Like many, I'm most surprised that [Saints coach Sean] Payton's penalty was twice as harsh as the one [GM Mickey] Loomis received, given that the Saints GM was the team's highest-ranking official who knew about the bounty program, and yet did little or nothing to stop it." But Goodell "doesn't like to be lied to, and he feels Payton, more than anyone else involved in New Orleans, stonewalled and covered up when the league went looking for answers" (SI.com, 3/21). NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote, "The buck stops with the head coach in the NFL." It would not have "made sense for [former Saints defensive coordinator] Williams to pay a heavy price while his former boss, Payton, got off lightly" (NFL.com, 3/21). FOXSPORTS.com's John Czarnecki wrote the penalties may have been "too severe for a coach like Payton, but Goodell's actions undoubtedly put coaches and players on notice" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/21). Saints QB Drew Brees yesterday wrote on Twitter, "I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment." Former coach Jimmy Johnson wrote on Twitter, "I'm shocked how severe the penalty is vs the Saints and Sean Payton. I don't agree with it...like a 8 million dollar fine vs HC..wrong!" (TWITTER.com, 3/21).
THE SAPP FACTOR: YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole noted NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp's accusation that free agent TE Jeremy Shockey was the "source of information that led to the bounty investigation ... threatens to undercut the NFL’s policy of protecting sources." Goodell has repeatedly said that the league "would protect 'whistleblowers' who reported violations of league policy." Sapp initially made his claim about Shockey via Twitter. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello "offered no explanation when asked why the NFL Network was allowed to air Sapp’s claims or why Sapp, a league employee, was allowed to make the claim in the first place" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). Shockey denied the accusation, but Sapp said, "I trust my source unequivocally." Sapp also emphasized that he "didn't get the information from the NFL." Sapp: "I did not call anybody at the league and I did not receive any information from the league" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21).