Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose initial statement regarding the Saints’ bounty system provided somewhat of a safe harbor by denying knowledge of the “real existence” of a bounty system, has since taken a more unequivocal stance.
Brees said last week that “what we’ve been accused of in regards to pay for injury is not the case.” On Monday, after attending a meeting between NFLPA representatives and the NFL, Brees explained that the league has not yet shown that a bounty system existed.
“We didn’t get any meaningful evidence, or any meaningful truth or facts,” Brees said, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network.
Many fans have responded to Brees’ claims with a high degree of skepticism, given that he has a clear and direct interest in proving that there was no bounty system. Not only would such a finding ensure that the Saints will have a full complement of defensive leaders like linebacker Jonathan Vilma in 2012, but it also would block the application of an unofficial asterisk to the team’s Super Bowl win in 2009.
For that reason, the NFLPA should have considered keeping Brees and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita away from the process of negotiating with the NFL — or at a minimum away from becoming the face or voice of the union’s position. Indeed, having Brees address the effort on behalf of all players potentially undermines the NFLPA’s position by tying it to the Saints’ obvious, knee-jerk interest in minimizing the punishment and/or the stigma.
To the extent that the NFLPA hopes to separate Brees’ role as a member of the Saints and his involvement in the talks as a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, new NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth wasn’t as convincing as he could have been. “It’s mostly coincidental that Drew and Scott are here, they’re also Executive Committee members, so they’re here to serve their duties as executive committee members, not necessarily as members of the Saints,” Foxworth said, per Breer. “Obviously Drew is, and Scott was a member of the Saints, that’s true. But their capacity here is as Executive Committee members.”
Thus, Brees, the Saints, and the NFLPA would be better off by making the lines even more clear, allowing Brees to avoid an obvious conflict of interest arising from his desire to keep his team competitive and his Super Bowl ring legitimate, and his duty to protect the players who were targeted by any bounties.
As a result, the best players to involve in the discussions between the union and the league would be men who were actually in the crosshairs of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, 49ers running back Frank Gore, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, and/or 49ers receive Kyle Williams. If/when one of those men declares publicly that there’s no evidence of a bounty system, fans will regard their words with a far greater degree of credibility.