Saints close to knowing further punishment, but dysfunction keeps growing

Doug Farrar
April 24, 2012

The hits just keep on coming for the New Orleans Saints. In the wake of their bounty scandal, there was the stranger news of general manger Mickey Loomis allegedly bugging the visitors locker room at the Superdome, and the family drama that has team owner Tom Benson putting his own granddaughter on administrative leave for her "sense of entitlement."

With all this going on, and the draft just two days away, the Saints' front office (or what's left of it) still doesn't know how many players NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell intends to fine and/or suspend for their roles in the attempts to intentionally injure players over the course of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' time with the team.

Based on Goodell's comments to Rich Eisen of the NFL Network, which can be heard on Eisen's most recent podcast, the Saints will be heading into the 2012 season with a very different roster. The Commish is pretty hacked off, and he doesn't care who knows it.

"I hope to reach those decisions very soon," Goodell told Eisen. "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. This is player-on-player and what we want to do is make sure that people understand that there needs to be respect for players that play the game and that needs to start with players against players. We made it clear what we expect from the coaches and executives and clubs that these types of activities should not be occurring and that they need to do their part, but the players need to do their part with each other and that starts with respecting each other."

When Eisen proposed that the players involved could possibly use the "just following orders" defense in carrying out Williams' edict, Goodell wasn't having it at all.

"Well I don't buy that, Rich -- the evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this." Goodell said. "They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the [injury bounty] 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. 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."

More is spilling from Saints opponents, as well. Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith, one of the NFL's most physical receivers over the last decade and a man not known to shy away from contact, recently told's Dave Dameshek that he has specific experience with these issues.

"I actually had an altercation with a guy [unnamed Saints player] who told me first-hand ... I was going out of bounds, and the guy went for my ankle," Smith said. "I said, 'Hey, man -- cut that out.' He's like, 'Well, we get fined if we don't go after your legs when you go out of bounds.'"

At this point, the Saints have even bigger fish to fry than the specter of Goodell's ire. The Louisiana Police and the FBI have shown interest in Loomis' alleged electronic misdeeds, which brings an entirely new level of dysfunction to a franchise that seems intent on re-defining the word in a daily basis.