Vilma's Suit, Brees' Comments: Thoughts on Latest Bountygate News

The (hopefully) final shoe dropped this week with Paul Tagliabue’s ruling on the Saints bounty scandal.  In a somewhat confusing ruling, Tagliabue basically concluded that the players involved did indeed do everything they stood accused of, but because it was an organizational thing, they shouldn’t be punished.  All right.  So the fines, suspensions and everything are cancelled, the players can go about doing their thing (though Sean Payton still can’t return to the sidelines), and we can put this all behind us, right?

Apparently not.  Jonathan Vilma still wants to go forward with his defamation-of-character lawsuit against Roger Goodell.  Such a suit would require Vilma to prove that Goodell knowingly accused him of things he didn’t do for the purpose of harming his character.  How he expects to win a case of this type when every investigation done thus far (every appellate investigation, in addition to Goodell’s own) has turned up a conclusion of “Yep, that looks like what happened,” I don’t understand.

And Drew.  Drew, Drew, Drew.  Remember when the Saints gave you $100 million in the offseason?  Yeah, that wasn’t to be a spokesman for the NFLPA.  It was to be a quarterback.  I wish you’d have spent more time worrying about not throwing interceptions, and less time planning your next remarks about the commissioner.

And let’s take a look at some of his comments:

"What I would like to see is a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation.  We as players hold ourselves and are held to a very strict code of conduct both on and off the field. We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards."

I’ve said this multiple times before, but you know why players are held to that standard, Drew?  BECAUSE THE PLAYERS GAVE HIM THAT POWER.  Back when there were seemingly multiple NFL player arrests dominating the news almost every week, the commissioner was given a great deal of power to suspend people based on personal conduct.

So you have a problem with it?  Remember the lockout before last season?  Well, that’s where matters like this can be addressed.  “Okay, we’ll give you [the owners] another one percent of revenue, but we want…”  That’s how negotiations work.  But no, it was made all about money, and the commissioner’s power went untouched.

And just for the record, I do believe that the punishments initially handed out were excessive.  I also understand why they were handed out.  The NFL is facing huge lawsuits from former players relating to safety, and so when reports came out that a team was offering cash for injuries, they felt a need to respond strongly.  They probably overreacted, but hypothetically, what would happen to the NFL if, say, on opening night of the 2010 season (Saints at Packers) Aaron Rodgers was laid out by a late hit, suffered some gruesome injury and saw his career end prematurely?  And then, months or even years later, an email sent to Sean Payton before that game turns up that says “PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers”?

There are certainly things to not like about this commissioner, and things he's said and done that make no sense.  But this bounty program existed.  Coaches have acknowledged as much.  And while it may be true that "everyone does it," the Saints were the ones who got caught, and were the unfortunate ones to bear the brunt of the punishment from a league desperate to prove that it cares about player safety.

This Saints season has not gone well by any means.  From the terrible start, to giving fans just enough hope that maybe they could dig themselves out of that hole only to collapse again, it’s been a tough year.  But Roger Goodell didn’t make Drew Brees throw those two pick-sixes against San Francisco, or those five interceptions at Atlanta.  Nor did he make the defense blow a 21-point lead against a terrible Kansas City team.  They simply couldn’t get the job done at critical points, and now they’ll be sitting at home come January.  Stop dwelling on this, stop looking for who else is to blame, and start focusing on next year.

Sunday: Tampa Bay at New Orleans – Tough to call at this point.  With playoff hopes dashed, how will the Saints be mentally in these few remaining games?  It’d be nice to end the year with some momentum, but winning at this point only ensures you a lower draft pick.  Sticking with the theme of the season thus far, I’ll call an ultimately-meaningless Saints victory, 28-24.

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