Different Defense: While watching OTA's this week...There is no doubt the defense is different with a new scheme and some new players, but you can see the aggressiveness is still here. The Saints defense showed a variety of blitz packages today during the team's organized team activities. In the process, the defense frustrated Saints quarterbacks on several plays, causing errant throws and would-be sacks.
Play of the day: Despite the defensive dominance, quarterback Chase Daniel found Courtney Roby for a 65 yard catch and run after Roby slipped behind the coverage of Jabari Greer. Daniel put the football right on the money allowing Roby to catch it in stride. Daniel was not as impressive in this OTA as the one we got to watch last week.
Sproles' roles, Sproles rolls: Forget about Darren Sproles being a year older, he looks a spry as ever. He's got that same burst and elusiveness that made him the biggest weapon in this Saints arsenal last season. Sproles is a nightmare for linebackers and safeties to cover. Anytime he's matched up with a backer, you can pretty much rest assured that's where the ball is going.
Concentration: In an effort to increase more interceptions and concentrate on the football, the Saints defensive coaches have come up with an intriguing training method. The defensive backs were catching tennis balls in their drills today instead of footballs. Also, when the football was implemented in drills, the nose of the ball at both ends was painted white in order for the players to concentrate and look the ball all the way into their hands.
Kristian@wwl.com - In order for a late-round draft pick to make a Saints roster already filled with starters firmly entrenched in their positions, the rookies will have to catch the coach's eye on special teams.
"I think the guys we signed to the roster that came in (produced),” Special Teams Coach Greg McMahon explained. “Certainly Corey White is a draft pick we’re excited about. He did a good job. What we try to do special teams wise in rookie minicamp are a lot of evaluation type of drills. Certainly our fundamental techniques, but we’re going to do some cover drill, to see if they can transition and things like that. We got good work with them. We’re excited about this class. We think it’s a good class and with the undrafted free agents and draft picks that we received some good evaluations on.”
White is also in the mix competing for the teams nickel cornerback position, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo told us.
"There’s competition there, but we do know who the two guys are that were there from last year (Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson). Corey White will certainly be in there, Johnny Patrick, Marquis Johnson who we just added to the fold here. There will be a bunch of these young guys," said Spagnuolo.
The Saints special teams unit was vastly improved in 2011 after a sub-par year in 2010. The Black and Gold made a concerted effort to get younger on special teams a year ago, and it looks as though that will be the theme again this season.
"Young players have to play special teams, and have to find their spot because of the limited number of game day roster spots,” says NFL analayst Mike Detillier. “You can't be the nickel cornerback and that's it. You can't be the fifth wide reciever and not have a role on special teams."
Last year's special teams demon Isa Abdul-Quddus saw action in 16 regular season games and both post-season contests, registering 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Qudduss joined the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Fordham and made the roster because of his play on coverage units.
Kristian@wwl.com - To say it was weird not to see Drew Brees on the field as the Saints go through Organized Team Activities would be an understatement. It's startling! Not frightening, because Chase Daniel did a pretty good job leading the offense.
Now, let’s not get it twisted; Daniel is nowhere close to being Drew Brees. That’s no knock on Daniel, it's just that not too many NFL quarterbacks are as good as Brees.
“It’s going to be different until he (Brees) gets here, but as far as those two guys have done, these first 3 days have been real positive," explained offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. . "The ball stayed off the ground, and for them it’s about assignment---are they making the right decisions with the ball, location? I would say all that’s been very positive, maybe a throw or two here missed that we’ve seen Drew make, but it’s been positive.”
Brees and the Saints continue to work toward a long-term contract, and the feeling among the players and coaches is that it will come sooner or later. Let’s hope it’s not later.
Lofton Leading: The Saints pulled a pretty big coup when they stole middle linebacker Curtis Lofton from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. At the time, it was thought to have been an awfully good insurance policy if Jon Vilma was lost for a significant portion of the season due to the Bounty scandal. Lofton is leading the defense.
“I am excited," Lofton told us. "They expect a lot of me and I expect a lot of myself too. The reason why I came here is to win a championship and that is what everyone’s expectations are. You just have to keep taking it day by day and getting better. That is the number one goal right now."
You can see the natural leadership skills Lofton has. He will be a very nice addition to the defense.
Keep your roster handy: With so many new faces especially on the defensive side of the football, I found myself referring to my roster often at the OTA's trying to match numbers with names. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley is a player that stood out often.
“We are really happy so far with Bunkley. This is a very serious man who is serious about his craft and his trade," said assistant coach Joe Vitt. "He comes to work every day and wants to get better. We haven’t lost confidence at all in Sedrick Ellis but healthy competition is always good. There is a lot of competition in that room right now. It is going to be interesting to see how it shakes out."
Odds and Ends: Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is rehabbing his knee injury and not on the field at the moment for the Saints. Vilma is also involved in an appeals process to his season long suspension for his role in the teams' bounty program.
The Saints pulled off a pretty big upset stealing linebacker Curtis Lofton from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. Lofton admitted that he didn't think too highly of the Saints prior to joining the Black and Gold.
"When I was going through the process and they said the Saints were interested in me, I only took one visit and that was here. Up in Atlanta, I hated these guys. That is the rivalry, you hate each other," Lofton said.
Soon after that visit he came to terms with what the Saints had to offer. "Once I got here, hanging around Coach (Sean) Payton, Mickey (Loomis), Coach (Joe) Vitt, and Coach Spags, it felt right. It was family. Before I made my decision, I called Harp (Roman Harper), I called Will (Smith), and they were very receptive. They talked to me and said 'Hey, we need you. Come be a part of something great," Lofton recalled.
Lofton came over from the Falcons as a man that has been extremely productive, tallying over 100 tackles in three of his four seasons with the Dirty Birds. With Jonathan Vilma out for the season serving a season long suspension (pending appeal) Lofton is ready to step up as one of the leaders on defense.
"I am excited. They expect a lot of me, and I expect a lot of myself too. The reason why I came here is to win a championship and that is what everyone's expectations are. You just have to keep taking it day by day and getting better. That is the number one goal right now."
Before landing in New Orleans as a free agent, the knock on Lofton was that he couldn't play all three downs in the middle because he wasn't a very good pass defender. Lofton was quick to shoot that down.
"When you are a free agent, every weakness you have, they are going to look at. If you look at my time in Atlanta, my first year I was a first and second down linebacker. My second year, I played more than 95% of the snaps. The past two years, I played 99% of the snaps. I guess, if you play 99% of the snaps, you couldn't say that I was a first and second down linebacker."
The Saints placed heavy emphases on upgrading the line backing corps this offseason. New Orleans signed three free agents this spring including Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Chris Chamberlain. Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt had high praise for the trio during the first week of organized team activities.
"These guys are special. They are all business. You guys saw practice today. When you look at their athleticism and range, (you are impressed). They are in great shape. We have been pleasantly surprised with their mental capacity to absorb the new system that is going in. Curtis has done a lot of what we are doing in Atlanta already. Those two guys have been everything we thought they would be and more. They have some natural leadership qualities and they want to win. It has been great," Vitt explained.
In a few short hours of watching the Saints on the field and in the locker room, you can clearly see Lofton assimilating himself as one of the leaders on the defense. Lofton is well liked by his teammates, and that's a big first step in earning the respect in the locker room. Give General Manager Mickey Loomis and his scouts plenty of credit, they seem to have an uncanny ability to target a player that fits exactly into their plans. The transition from Vilma to Lofton appears smooth at this point.
ESPN's Colin Cowherd slammed New Orleans on his nationally syndicated talk show today.
No, not the Saints...the City of New Orleans itself!
"Can I ask you something," Cowherd said. "Why is the least-safe major city in the country now the default destination for every big sporting event?"
Cowherd seemed miffed that New Orleans landed the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the BCS National Championship AND possibly the Pro Bowl, all within the span of one calendar year.
"It is the least safe major city in the country…not my opinion, statistically the least safe," he said. "There are only two where locals will tell you, turn around, don't go that way…Detroit and New Orleans."
To say the City of New Orleans is unsafe is completely unfounded. Are some parts less desirable? Absolutely! Are there segments of this city that you shouldn’t venture into? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean New Orleans shouldn’t host major sporting events. What city is better at hosting sporting events than the Big Easy? None!
Click below to hear Cowherd's remarks:
Several times, Cowherd seemed to equate having a flashy airport with his idea of an ideal sports destination.
"(New Orleans) doesn't have a world-class airport. It is not geographically easy for much of the country to get to. I mean if you live Rocky Mountains west, New Orleans is a looong way away."
This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. I mean, New Orleans is somewhat centrally located to the rest of the Continental United States and the 31 other NFL markets. How much farther is Miami or New York from "West of the Rocky Mountains?"
"I want a lot of hotel rooms, a great airport, good weather, safety,” Cowherd said. "New Orleans is not top-15 in any of those."
Granted, New Orleans has a crime problem, but the numbers are somewhat skewed by violent crimes committed by people who know each other, and drug-related crime in some of the more downtrodden parts of the city. Yes, this is a major problem the city faces...but actual attacks upon tourists, and people in “tourist areas" are pretty rare.
He "wants a lot of hotel rooms?" Had he bothered to check, Cowherd would have found that in terms of hotel rooms, New Orleans is tops in the nation, in both quality and quantity.
And, NOT in the top 15 for "great weather?" Good God, man, where would you rather be in February for the Super Bowl? New York? Chicago? Green Bay?
I think it’s simple why New Orleans hosts major sporting event after sporting event. This city knows what it’s doing. We host a party like no other. We have police PROTECTION like no other. I’ve been to Super Bowls in other cities, and while they were nice, they didn’t have that "personal touch" of New Orleans. That's not just me talking, in Indianapolis dozens of people stopped by our broadcast booth on Radio Row and said, "Yes, Indy is nice, but we can't WAIT to be in New Orleans next year!" And when the Final Four was here, folks I talked to loved their experience.
Cowherd is a West Coast elitist who swoops in for a night or two, stays in a swanky upscale hotel, and gets whisked around in a limo surrounded by security. He doesn’t experience a fraction of what New Orleans really offers real fans in the sports scene. (Hell, no wonder he's so infatuated with hotel rooms and airports...that's ALL he ever sees!) No other city combines food, music, fun, night life, and local flavor like we do. Other cities do certain things well, but only New Orleans has it ALL, and more, within walking distance.
Hey, haters are gonna hate. If Cowherd is getting through the off-season by just trolling hard, I guess I'm just feeding the troll here. But, if he's got a bias against New Orleans because he doesn't like the city, he needs to man up and just admit it. Instead, his arguments are factually suspect at best, and intentionally malicious at worst.
Part of me says, "Screw him, Colin Cowherd can stay on the West Coast." But despite everything he said, I'm a fan of Cowherd's and would love to take the time to be a tour guide and show him both the good and bad of our town.
The door is open, Colin. Be responsible and take the time and effort to really learn about one of the greatest cities in the world before you slam it!
Don't expect to see Mark Ingram in the Saints Organized Team Activities this week.
Last year, Ingram's rookie season didn't exactly go as he expected. The former Alabama running back missed six games due to nagging heel and toe injuries. Furthermore he had offseason knee surgery and will miss a significant time in the offseason condition program and OTA's.
Interim Head Coach Joe Vitt says Ingram will rebound. "I think anytime you see a player limping around with a late-season, offseason surgery like he had... you're concerned. What I'm not concerned about is his dedication to getting better, and his accountability to his teammates. He shows up to treatment on time every day. He's not late. He's taken a good business approach to this thing," Vitt explained. "The surgery is probably something that he didn't have to get done, but as an organization we all agreed that he should get it done to make him a stronger player. Mark is a dependable guy now. He's not going to miss his treatment. He gets his work done. You're concerned obviously with this, but not much with him."
The knee surgery isn't expected to spill over into the regular season.
"I think he's a green light. We'll probably have to back off a little bit at the beginning of training camp, but I think he's a green light by when the season starts. Absolutely," Vitt said of Ingram.
When he was on the field last season you could see why the Saints traded into the first round to grab him in the 2011 draft. In ten games, he carried 122 times for 474 yards (3.9 avg.) with five touchdowns. Ingram was particularly effective in short yardage. He converted 10-of-12 third-and-one rushing attempts for 83.3%. The good news is that the Saints are loaded with depth at the running back position. The Saints also have Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and their all purpose guy in scat back Darren Sproles.
Had to get this out: Do we really think this is going to get ugly? Then again, who thought it was going to go this far, with the Saints franchise quarterback going public about his contract dispute with the team.
Well, it won't get ugly. There is too much respect from both sides. However, it's reached a critical point. Clearly the best quarterback in the NFL (yep I said it) wants to be taken care of.
What about the team? What about that fluer de lis? What about what's best for the organization? Doesn't that have to be considered? Yes, indeed. Can't we make both parties happy? No doubt about it, we can.
Just about every member of the who dat nation is in Brees's corner. If you are, I only caution: you're cheering for laundry. You understand that right? The players come and go, and the team will be here forever. (Well at least through 2025.) I know what Drew means to this city, region and organization. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it. I'm just saying I feel for the Saints and General Manager Mickey Loomis. How do you put a price tag on Drew Brees? Super Bowl MVP! The best player on your team? A team ambassador! A leader. The best Quarterback in the NFL. What's the price?
If that's the problem, or the question, then it's a tough one to answer. That's what Loomis and company have to decide, all the while doing what's best for the TEAM!
Tough spot right? The truth is, it's just another day at the office for Loomis. Want to be an NFL GM? It will get done. Team, team, team!
Kristian@wwl.com - We've gotten a lot of questions about what would happen if Drew Brees doesn't sign his franchise tender.
In the unlikely event that should happen, Drew would pass on the $16 million that he'd be due as a franchise QB in the NFL.
However, he'd also be locked in for at least two more years with the Black and Gold. The Saints would still be able to franchise him for the 2013 and 2014 seasons as well (although, with successively bigger and bigger paychecks, per league rules.)
It puts Drew in kind of a tough position, which is why I think that is part of the reason that he came on with Deke to talk about it on the air, to help speed up the negotiation process.
The Saints obviously want him to play in some capacity this fall, but they also have strong incentive to NOT have him under the "cloud" of the franchise tag. A player under franchise might not be as motivated, and the $16 million price tag for a franchise QB also makes for a much larger hit on the salary cap than would a long-term contract.
So, both sides have quite a bit of incentive to see Drew NOT be forced to play under a franchise tag. Drew does have some power here, but right now it looks like the Saints have a lot more of the leverage than he does.
Under the CBA, the Saints and Drew cannot continue negotiations on a long-term contract after July 16. So, the clock is ticking.
Do I think a deal will get done? Yes. I think in deals like this, you need deadlines, and there haven't been any real deadlines that they've missed...not yet, anyway.
Remember that song performed by Tony Bennett, "I Left my Heart in San Francisco?"
Yeah, you could say that applies to the Saints. They still haven't gotten over the divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers to end their 2011 season.
"There's no doubt. I don't know that we've got that taste out of our mouths yet from that San Francisco loss. That was heartbreaking. It's carried over a little bit to the offseason. We've talked about it a lot," Interim Head Coach Joe Vitt said.
The Saints were undone by five turnovers... falling to the Niners 36-32 after a near brilliant come back win.
The Saints are getting ready to take the field again next week for organized team activities (OTA), and Vitt says the offseason conditioning program has been outstanding. "The weight work has been good. Our players' weights are good. Our film sessions have been outstanding. To this point right now in this offseason, it really couldn't have been better. Our guys are working hard. Our leadership has really done a good job within the locker room. I think with the new acquisitions of our players, they are everything that we thought they would be up to this point. They've meshed very well with the existing players that we have on our team. It's been a great offseason, it really has."
For the most part, the Saints should be healthy when they hit the field next Wednesday.
"There are going to be a couple of guys we'll back off of. Obviously (Jonathan) Vilma, we're going to back off on. Jahri Evans, we've got to back off on a little bit. That's been an ongoing process with the rehab this offseason. There are no surprises," Vitt explained.
Evans did not have offseason surgery, but Vitt said that he's a little sore right now. The players that I have spoken with during this crazy wild offseason insist they'll use the bounty saga and the way last season ended as motivation for 2012. We're about to find out just how motivating those things will be.
Suspended Saints Head Coach Sean Payton has been described as one of the best play callers in the game. He's been called "special" and "magical" in dissecting defenses on game day.
While he serves his season long suspension, the Saints will indeed miss Payton's innate ability to call the right play at the right time. However, the Saints have been here before.
"After Sean (Payton) got hurt, Pete (Carmichael) called 95 percent of the offense a year ago and had to install a lot of the offense during the week," said interim head coach Joe Vitt. "This is not uncharted waters for him and it's not uncharted waters for our offense. Again, are we going to miss Sean? Absolutely. He's unique in what he does. I think Pete has proven and our offense has proven what they can do when Sean's on the shelf."
Once the Saints get a long term contract worked out with quarterback Drew Brees, he'll have a large amount of input in the offense as well.
"We kind of hit on this last year. Nobody knows Drew Brees as well as Pete. Nobody knows Pete as well as Drew Brees... They speak a common language and common verbiage," said Vitt.
The Saints also benefit from having the same offensive system for several years now, with a few tweaks here or there.
"I would say 95 percent of it is carried over from years before, and then five percent or maybe ten percent is maybe something new that you put in the year before that you liked. This is really going on year seven for us with Sean's offense. The progression is pretty smooth,” explained Carmichael.
The Saints averaged more than 30 points per game last season, and Carmichael with Brees makes for a deadly combo. Payton's signature will still be on the offense. In fact, you can still see his signature in the organization despite his absence. The Saints are a classic example of an organization taking on the personality of their leader. He's not there physically, but you can almost feel Brees in that building. That's powerful.
Kristian@wwl.com - Kristian Garic reporting In all, 64 rookies were at team headquarters this weekend for five practices.
"It was an indoctrination for all our rookies," Saints Assistant Coach Joe Vitt said. “Overall, the weekend was great,” Vitt explained.
The Saints coaching staff say they were impressed by the rookies’ “attention to detail.”
Akiem Hicks drew the praise of the Black and Gold coaches, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admitted it was more difficult to evaluate defensive lineman without pads. “He had lots of energy, he was very in tune to what were doing. He did not get overwhelmed with volume of plays,” said Spags.
Toon-ed up: Saints fourth round pick Nick Toon stood out as well. "I thought Toon had a good weekend,” Vitt Said. Toon was also praised by offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr for his route-running ability and his ability to grasp multiple positions on offense. Toon figures to be the rookie who can come and contribute right away. “He’s a ‘now’ player, he can come and help you today, not tomorrow, but today,” explained NFL analyst Mike Detillier.
Drew Brees progress: It doesn’t seem like there has been much, but we simply don’t know what we don’t know. I mean, I know there are reports out there that they haven’t talked in over a month…and while that might be true, only Brees and the Saints know what the real deal is. “I’m no accounting major and have no advice to offer Mickey (Loomis)…This is going to get done," Coach Vitt said of the Brees deal.
In the event Brees is not signed by the time the team opens organized team activities next week, the Saints will bring in another quarterback. “The only thing he has missed (so far) is the weight training, and when Drew shows up here, he’ll be the best-conditioned athlete on the team” Vitt explained.
The Saints take the field! Well the rookies will at least. The Black and Gold will hold their annual rookie mini camp at team headquarters this weekend. All five of the club's draft picks will be in attendance, along with 18 undrafted rookie free agents and try out players. This can be an eye opening experience for the rookies. Former Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem struggled in his first mini camp, namely with the conditioning aspect. The coaches will indoctrinate the rookies on how to practice at the NFL level.
"I feel like my god given ability, and everything I've trained for is to be a part of the National Football League," 3rd round pick defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. Hicks along with 4th round pick Nick Toon are the cream of the rookie class for the Black and Gold this season.
In addition to the draft class, the Saints will have 18 rookie free agents in camp including former Destrehan prep standout Jerico Nelson. The former Arkansas Razorback knows he's going to have to impress on special teams if he wants to stick around. "I've played special teams before, so it's something I'm used to, but they have so much talent at the safety position. That's going to have to be my niche," Nelson explained.
The Saints place an increased value on players that can play special teams, and as we've seen in the past they're not concerned with how a player arrived on their team. Whether it's as a free agent or draft pick, if they're good enough, they'll make the team.
Keep an eye on reports about Braylon Brougton (TCU DE/OLB). Broughton was a three-year letterman for the Horned Frogs, playing in 42 games with five starts over his collegiate career. The Dallas native had career totals of 45 tackles (32 solo), 9.5 stops for a loss, three sacks, three pass defenses, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick. As a senior in 2011, Broughton appeared in 13 games and started five games for the Rose Bowl Champions, leading TCU with six tackles for a loss as he recorded 25 stops (12 solo) overall, two sacks and one blocked kick. He's huge at 6 ft 7 and can really get after the passer. This is my early dark horse to make the roster.
Defensive End Tyrunn Walker is another local player that has a shot to impress coaches. Walker is a New Iberia native, who started his career at Jones County (Miss.) Junior College. After transferring to Tulsa, he started in all 26 career games. He totaled 84 tackles, 25.5 stops for a loss and 13.5 sacks, 11 pass defenses, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Entering his third season in the NFL you can see Saints tight end Jimmy Graham starting to blossom as a leader. I had a chance to talk to the all-pro pass catcher as he looks ahead to the upcoming season.
''There is a different kind of focus this off-season'' during team work outs, Graham said. He told me the guys are ''juiced up'' and explained the attitude and focus has been outstanding through the off-season conditioning program.
“This is going to be another opportunity to persevere,” Graham said of the scandals that have surrounded the Saints since March.
As we all know by now, Sean Payton won’t walk through the doors on Airline drive until March of 2013, so the team is going to be lead by the players and assistant coach Joe Vitt.
“He’s very motivating. He’s been in the league a long time and has a lot of wisdom,” Graham said of Vitt. “He knows more about football than anyone I’ve ever met.”
I’ve learned a couple of things about NFL teams and players by watching the leadership pecking order on teams. It typically starts with their play on the field, how they conduct themselves in the locker room, and how involved they are in the community. Graham has already proved he’s among the best in the league on the field, and his teammates love him. So, he’s go the first two nailed.
Graham hosted over 300 kids for his first football camp at Tulane University over the weekend. He was great with the kids and is taking a big step in giving back to the community by hosting the camp. You can expect even bigger things out of Graham this season, on and off the field.
The NFL Commissioner finally made his move in the bounty case looming over the Saints. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse.
“It’s not that bad,” the ‘’Cajun Cannon’’ Bobby Hebert told me. ‘’That’s why you go and get guys like Curtis Lofton, who is like a young Jon Vilma,’’
Goodell suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season and defensive end Will Smith for a total of four games this upcoming season.
‘’It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced,” Goodell said. “Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.”
The Saints protected themselves against damage caused by the looming penalties by bringing in Lofton during the free agency period from the Atlanta Falcons. Lofton lead the Falcons in tackles last season and has been a tackling machine with Atlanta entering his fifth season in the NFL. Smith can participate in off-season conditioning, mini-camps, training camps and the pre-season. His suspension starts week one.
Smith is the Saints’ best defensive lineman, and his loss hurts…but, it gives guys like Cameron Jordan, Greg Romeus and Junior Gallette a chance to show their stuff.
Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita is suspended for three games. Fujita left the Saints for the Browns following the 2009 super bowl championship season. Former defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove is now with the Green Bay Packers, has been suspended for eight games. All in all, it could have been a lot worse for the Saints. Vilma was widely considered a declining player and the Saints restructured his contract in the off-season to reflect his compensation level. The loss of Smith hurts, but isn’t overwhelming. The Saints were without Smith for the first two games of last season after serving a suspension over the “Star Caps” episode.
And, keep in mind: If the players appeal the suspensions, it could be that we could see both Vilma and Smith get some playing time this season.
5.1.12 - Kristian Garic reporting - Kristian@wwl.com
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken long enough in handing down punishments for Saints players involved in the teams bounty program. It's time for the ''emperor'' to rule and move on with it. The Saints organization deserves closure and the players deserve to know their fate. I've been a supporter of Goodell; I was in his corner when he crushed the Saints by suspending head coach Sean Payton (a full season) and General Manager Mickey Loomis (8 games) along with assistant head coach Joe Vitt (6 games). Not on this one, Goodell has dragged his feet long enough. The Saints are trying to move on and prepare for the regular season that will already require them to be without their General (Sean Payton) and their front office wizard Mickey Loomis.
It's only fair, right? It's only fair that the players learn what they face, right? It's only fair that the team can prepare for possible life without leaders such as Jon Vilma, Roman Harper, Will Smith and maybe more. I'm not sure the commissioner cares about fairness. Mr. Goodell, you have flexed your muscle loud and clear with aforementioned suspensions. Can you cut the Saints some slack? I'm not asking for a reduction in possible suspensions, but at least give it to them already and quit tap dancing. It's perplexing to see the commissioner speak out (with NFL network) prior to handing down suspensions, as if he's trying to gauge the public support he would get. If you have evidence, release the evidence against the players and move on with it. Goodell has always acted swiftly on player discipline dolling out fines and suspensions like a bar tender handing out shots on New Year ’s Eve. Isn't it time? Don't the fans have the right to know? Don't the players have the right to know? Don't the Saints have the right to know?
I've sent repeated requests to the league office for interview(s) with the Commissioner only to be declined. I think the commissioner owes the Saints and the Who Dat Nation, some form of an explanation. The first question I would ask…”How do you maintain a competitive balance with the Saints and still enforce discipline? If you suspend multiple players at a time wouldn't you skew the competitive line for the Saints, Mr. Goodell? Hummm?" Also, “what about the evidence you claim you have? Don't you think the fans, media and the Saints are entitled to see that evidence? Not just in the case of the players, but in the case of Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis? Where are the 50,000 pages and 18,000 documents? Shouldn't we see them? Or, should we just take your word for it?” What would you ask the commissioner in a one on one sit down? I'm all ears. Goodell likely will not be.