At ownership meetings in Atlanta, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the media, as he usually does at ownership meetings, wherever they are held.
But these ownership meetings are occurring at a time when the NFL has been reluctant to disclose information regarding the Saints’ bounty investigation, specifically as it relates to the players who were suspended last month. And in addressing the media on Tuesday, Goodell addressed the issue of making the information public.
In this regard, it’s particularly important to focus on what Goodell said, and on what he didn’t say. From the official transcript posted at NFLCommunications.com, here’s the exchange:
On if there is any talk about releasing the proof of payment in Saints bounty scandal:
We released the facts back in early March. We have met with the union a couple of times. The union specifically told the players not to cooperate in the investigation. We are in the midst of challenges on a variety of fronts with respect to the process of these appeals. So as that plays out and as that is concluded how that process will go forward, we will certainly engage and make sure we are fulfilling every aspect of that; including the appeals process itself.
On if he would expect at some point the proof becomes public:
Yes, I do.
Contrary to characterizations of these comments elsewhere, Goodell said nothing about when the proof will become public. He also didn’t say whether the information would be released with or without redaction or other protection of the names of the persons who provided it.
Regardless of whether the NFL officially releases evidence, it’s safe to say that any evidence produced by the league to the suspended players as part of the appeal process could be leaked to the media, by the NFL or the NFLPA. The question becomes, then, how much evidence the NFL ultimately chooses to give to the NFLPA and the suspended players as part of the appeal process — and whether the NFL will disclose any evidence that reasonably could be interpreted as undermining the conclusion that the players deserve to be suspended.
Goodell separately laid the foundation for a potential reduction in the penalties, pointing to the fact that the players who have been suspended refused to talk to the league before the initial decision was made. Apparently, there’s a chance that Goodell will change his mind after hearing from them, if/when the efforts to steer the appeal process away from him fail.
“You second-guess yourself because that is what an appeals process is for,” Goodell said. “You want to hear what the players have to say. Some of them indicated they wanted to come in and talk before the decision was made. I invited them in. They decided not to do that, at the NFLPA’s recommendation, I think. I understand that. When we get to the appeals, we will be able to talk about it and we will be able to hear from one another.”
The other benefit from a reduction in the suspensions is that it would make the in-house judge/jury/executioner seem meaningful, likewise making it harder for the players to attack the outcome of the appeals in court.