NEW ORLEANS - At Friday’s “State of the NFL” address, commissioner Roger Goodell was given an opportunity.
He could express regret for any overly harsh handling of the Saints’ bounty scandal before the 2012 season, or he could stick by his guns and maintain that his suspensions delivered to those involved - some of which were overturned on appeal - were the right moves.
Goodell chose the latter, expressing almost no regret about the punishments he crafted, which included a year-long suspension for Saints coach Sean Payton and an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“Let me just take a moment and get back and make sure everyone is clear on the record. There is no question there was a bounty program in place for three years,” Goodell said. “I think that that is bad for the players, for the game, and I think the message is incredibly clear, and I don’t believe that bounties will be part of football going forward. That’s good for everybody. I do think that message has come through clear.
“As it relates to the regrets, I think my biggest regret is that we aren’t all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That’s what I regret, that I wasn’t able to make that point clearly enough with the union, and with others. That is something we are going to be incredibly relentless on.”
Considering the fact that Goodell has been the No. 1 enemy of Saints fans this season, it seemed like a fair question if he felt welcome in New Orleans for Super Bowl week.
“I couldn’t feel more welcome here. You know when you look back at it, my picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll,” Goodell said. “I’m serious, really, the people here have been incredible. The last couple of nights I’ve been out with a lot of the people that I worked very closely with following the Katrina tragedy, and we celebrated the work that we did then, but what we did is we all reflected on how great that was that we worked together, and they couldn’t be nicer.
“They couldn’t be more welcoming, and the same is true with fans. Now, I understand the fans’ loyalty is to the team. They had no part of this. They were completely innocent in this. So I appreciate the passion. I saw that for myself when we were down here for Katrina, and it’s clear that that’s what they’re all about. So I support the fact that they’re passionate in supporting their team.”