NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he “fundamentally disagrees” with former league boss Paul Tagliabue’s decision not to discipline players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
Speaking Wednesday after an owners meeting in the Dallas area, Goodell said he respected his predecessor’s decision, and believed it backed up the commissioner’s conclusion that the Saints ran a bounty program for three years and covered it up.
But Goodell took issue with Tagliabue vacating the yearlong suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and shorter bans for three other current and former Saints players. In an NFL appeal ruling issued Tuesday, the former commissioner placed much of the blame with the Saints’ coaches and front office.
“I fundamentally disagree that this is something that lies just with coaches and management,” Goodell said. “I do think their leadership position needs to be considered, but I also believe these players were in leadership positions, also.”
Like Vilma, Saints coach Sean Payton received a yearlong suspension. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, and assistant Joe Vitt, who is now the interim head coach, was banned for six games. General manager Mickey Loomis got an eight-game suspension.
Williams wanted to stop bounties
Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said at an appeals hearing in the bounty case that he tried to shut down the team’s pay-for-pain system when the NFL began investigating but was overruled by current Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, according to transcripts of the session.
The transcripts say Williams testified that Vitt responded to a suggestion that the Saints abandon the pay-for-pain setup with an obscenity-filled speech about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “wasn’t going to … tell us to … stop doing what won us the Super Bowl. This has been going on in the … National Football League forever.”