Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that, despite the findings of the NFL’s investigation into the team’s bounty scandal, the New Orleans coaching staff did not instruct the Saints to try to hurt players on other teams.
“We never taught any of our players when they crossed the white line to injure another player,” Vitt said. “I’m going to answer that question, but guys, I’d like to move on to football if I can.”
Vitt said repeatedly during the press conference that he’d rather talk about the future of the football team than the past of the bounty scandal, but he was asked about it anyway, and he did acknowledge that the audio tape of Gregg Williams exhorting the Saints to injure players on the 49ers sounds damning. However, Vitt said that the Saints should be judged on what they did, not on what they said.
“I regret the words that were spoken in meetings,” Vitt said. “And, again, I’m going to say this one last time, and players in our league know this: What you do on the field speaks so well that there’s no need for what you say. And the body of work of our players on the field has spoken well. And I don’t think that you acquire the players that we have and the coaches that have come here unless you’re a first-class organization. And that’s what we have here.”
Vitt is the interim head coach because Sean Payton is suspended for the entire year, but Vitt himself will also be suspended for his role in the bounty scandal. Vitt said he doesn’t know who will serve as the interim interim head coach during Vitt’s six-game suspension at the start of the season, other than that it will be “whoever can best serve.”
“I’m not going to take Sean Payton’s place — I’m like a substitute teacher, and I’m not going to try to take his place,” Vitt said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever said I’m the interim head coach here. Has anyone ever said that? I’m the assistant head coach. Sean’s not here right now, so I’m taking Sean’s place while he’s not here.”
A major issue facing Vitt’s team is that Saints quarterback Drew Brees is still unsigned as the team’s franchise player, but Vitt said he’s confident that a deal will get done.
“Drew has earned the right to negotiate this contract, and he’s negotiating his contract with one of the best guys in the National Football League in Mickey Loomis,” Vitt said. “This will get worked out. All we can do is coach the guys who are here.”
Vitt also backed up Loomis in the ESPN report that he eavesdropped on opposing coaches, calling it “ludicrous” and “impossible” and “I just know it’s not true.”
Ultimately, Vitt expressed confidence that the Saints will have a good football team in 2012.
“The last thing Sean said to everyone in this building was, ‘Do your job. Do your job,’” Vitt said. “And everybody in this organization will do their job.”