Roger Goodell has made no secret that he wants part of his legacy as commissioner to be a safer NFL. The way he handles the Saints bounty case may go a long way toward shaping his legacy, and changing the attitudes of NFL players, coaches and teams toward player safety.
Peter King has a story in this week’s Sports Illustrated, available on the magazine’s Facebook page, that suggests Goodell is furious about the bounties and planning to take severe action.
“This is a seminal moment in the culture change we have to make,” a source close to Goodell said. “This has to stop now. Every team needs to hear the message that we’re in a different era now, where this appalling behavior is going to end.”
The source told King that when Goodell first heard the allegations of the Saints paying bounties, the commissioner said, “God forbid this is true. This will be earth-shattering.”
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams appears to be in very deep trouble with Goodell, as comparisons continue to be raised with the 1963 case in which Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Paul Hornung and Alex Karras for an entire season for their involvement in gambling. According to King, when Goodell first confronted Williams with evidence that he had been involved in paying bounties, Williams denied it, which will surely not win Williams any points. He has since admitted his involvement.
Saints head coach Sean Payton may be in big trouble as well, with one league source involved in the investigation saying the way Payton ran things “Reminds me of the Nixon White House.”
King’s sources suggest that Goodell will come down hardest on Williams, Payton, Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who reportedly offered $10,000 cash to any player who could knock Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game.
Goodell made his mark as commissioner by cracking down on players’ off-field misconduct. Those who encouraged injuring opposing players through on-field misconduct are about to feel Goodell’s wrath.