NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the league’s television station Tuesday that he plans to decide “very soon” on disciplinary measures against players involved in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
“I hope to reach those decisions very soon,” Goodell told the league-owned NFL Network. “We have been continuing our work. We have continued to talk to players and other people that can give us a perspective. Once we have got all the information and we feel that we are in a position to be able to issue the fairest and most thorough types of decisions, we will do that. But I expect to do that soon because this is a big element to me.
Goodell previously suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton for a full season, General Manager Mickey Loomis for a half-season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely. The Saints were fined $500,000 and stripped of a pair of second-round draft picks.
The league concluded after an investigation that 22 to 27 players were involved in the bounty program, which paid players for hits that injured opponents. The program, primarily funded by players, was in effect the last three seasons, according to the league’s investigation.
“The evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this,” Goodell told the NFL Network. “They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the program and they actually are the ones playing the game. They are on the field so I don’t think they are absolved from any responsibility because of that [the role of the coaches and the team]. I think everyone bears responsibility here.
“We have held the executives and the coaches to a higher standard but the players need to recognize, they need to make sure that this is not happening either and that was the whole point that I made with the Players Association. I am not necessarily looking for their recommendation on discipline. I am looking for their recommendation on what we do to continue to make our game safer and to get this type of activity out of the game and get back to the point where we have respect for each other and the game itself.”
People familiar with the case previously said the players most heavily involved in the bounty program could face lengthy suspensions, potentially a half-season or longer in some instances.