Saints quarterback Drew Brees made a stir (intentionally or otherwise) last week by saying about Commissioner Roger Goodell on behalf of all players: “Nobody trusts him. Nobody trusts him.”
Brees received an opportunity to speak on his own behalf during an interview with NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk before Sunday night’s Hall of Fame game.
“Do I trust the Commissioner?” Brees said. “I think that Commissioner Goodell has done a lot of great things for this league. It just happens to be that, in this instance, with the bounty, I think that the league and he have gotten this one wrong. And we all have the opportunity to re-evaluate this and make it right, come to a positive resolution and do it together. And be very open and transparent about it.”
Faulk didn’t press Brees for a yes-or-no response, and it’s unclear whether Brees would have given one. But it’s clear that, as to the bounty case, Brees trusts nothing the league has said or done.
“The most disturbing thing is the process, the process by which this whole thing was unveiled,” Brees said. “The intentions were never made clear from the very beginning. I think coaches and players alike were kind of brought in to talk to the Commissioner and the league under false pretenses, and all of a sudden it’s just like a media firestorm and evidence and things are getting leaked to the media, things are being reported that are proven to be untrue in a lot of cases. And yet it’s out there. The perception has been created nationally for fans and all those that love our game that there was something illegal going on here. And that’s everything against what we stand for. And that’s why we fought so vehemently to prove that’s not the case.”
Brees also danced around the question of whether the union should have insisted on appeals processes that removed full power over the decision and any appeals from the Commissioner.
“The fact of the matter is are the allegations true or not?” Brees said. “Are there facts and proof in evidence to back that up, besides just supposed, corroborated evidence between disgruntled employees? Has there been anything concrete that you can show that this indeed happened? To this point nobody’s seen anything. We’ve been told — everyone’s been told that it’s there. Nobody’s seen it. So it would just make you think maybe there’s not. And all I’m saying is we have an opportunity to make it right. The season’s almost here, there’s a lot at stake. I just hope that that can be accomplished.”
Brees is right. The evidence that has been leaked or otherwise provided by the league has has gaping holes. There still is no persuasive evidence of intent to injure. That’s why the NFL needs to make it clear that intent is irrelevant. That the rules prohibit offering players money for applying clean, legal hits in a way that inflicts injury, regardless of intent.
The league seems to be moving closer to acknowledging that fact, even if it means embracing a debate regarding whether it’s a problem to offer a little cash (or a helmet sticker) to a guy who does his job cleanly and legally in a way that keeps an opponent from doing his job.