Four key takeaways from the Saints’ “bounty program” punishment

On Wednesday the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton for one year and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams “indefinitely” for their roles in the team’s “bounty program.” General manager Mickey Loomis was also suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 NFL season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of next season, and the team will lose its second-round pick in 2012 and its second-round pick in 2013. Below are four key takeaways from this scandal.

Goodell was harsh because he was lied to.
Remember back in 2007 when Roger Goodell threw the book at Michael Vick after the quarterback pled guilty to federal dog fighting charges? Part of the reason why Goodell was so harsh was because Vick admitted that he provided most of the money for the gambling side of the “Bid Newz Kennels” operation. But Goodell also dropped the hammer on Vick because the quarterback lied to his face about being involved with the scandal. The same thing happened with the Saints. Head coach Sean Payton lied to Goodell, Gregg Williams lied to Goodell, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt lied to Goodell. If the commish has taught us anything since he assumed office on September 1 of 2006 it’s that the NFL his league and he will go to extreme measures to protect its integrity. I fully admit that I was surprised by the rulings but once the league had enough evidence to convict the Saints of wrongdoing, you figured Goodell was going to rule with an iron fist. And I think it’s telling that Payton’s suspension doesn’t begin until April 1 when all NFL coaches have to attend a meeting on Monday for a coaches’ breakfast with the media. Think Goodell wants to send a message to Payton by having the suspended coach have to face the media that day?

Here’s the difference between the “bounty program” and “Spygate.
Five years ago the Patriots were found to have been videotaping the signals of opposing teams. Goodell fined Bill Belichick $500,000, fined the club $250,000, took away the Patriots’ first-round pick in 2008, and then had all of the documents from the scandal destroyed. As we came to find out, Belichick had been taping opponents’ signals since his days as a head coach in Cleveland and the “only” punishment New England received was essentially the loss of $750,000 and a first-round pick. So why did Goodell come down harder on the Saints than he did on the Patriots? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One, Goodell had just taken over as commissioner of the league when he doled out the punishment for the Patriots so he was still green at that point. It’s also widely known that he and Bob Kraft are very tight, so he wasn’t going to stick it to his buddy. But the biggest difference between the two, at least in my eyes, is that “Spygate” didn’t cost the league a dime. For the past three years Goodell has tried to make the NFL a safer game. And with more and more lawsuits emerging from former players, he has to be able to walk into a courtroom and say, ‘Hey, we’ve done everything we could to make our game safe.’ That message is awfully hard to convey when one of your coaches has a program in place to reward his players for taking out certain opponents. Not only did this bounty program scandal tarnish the league’s reputation and integrity, but it also had the potential to hit the NFL’s wallet down the line…repeatedly. And Goodell simply can’t have that.

This is only the first wave of punishment.
If you’re wondering why none of the Saints players have been suspended but their coaches and general manger did, just wait. This is more than likely just the first wave of punishments that Goodell will hand out. As the reported leader of the bounty program, Jonathan Vilma will probably receive a stiff punishment and you have to believe others will face discipline as well. It wasn’t just Vilma carrying out Williams’ “orders.”

Don’t make Shockey out to be “Deep Throat.”
As ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas points out, the NFL started investigating the Saints when they tried to take Brett Favre’s head off during the NFC title game in 2009. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, whom Warren Sapp said “snitched” to the league about the program, was playing for the Saints at the time. While Shockey may have ultimately told the NFL what he knew about the bounty program, he isn’t the reason the Saints eventually were investigated. Thus, there was no “snitch” here and for what it’s worth, Shockey has denied Sapp’s claims on his Twitter page.

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Jeremy Shockey chooses Panthers over Dolphins

When he was hired in January, new Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that he would target a “do-it-all” tight end this offseason.

He can now call off the search.

Rivera found his tight end in former Saint Jeremy Shockey, who has decided to sign a one-year deal with the Panthers instead of the Dolphins, who were also interested in his services.

“Looks like I’m signing with Carolina,” Shockey wrote via his Twitter page.

Whether he wound up with the Panthers or Dolphins, Shockey presumably was going to have an opportunity to make plays next year. Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has a history of utilizing tight ends, as does new Miami OC Brian Daboll (almost to a fault in Daboll’s case). But in the end, it’s not surprising that Shockey chose the Panthers seeing as how Chudzinksi was his former tight end coach at the University of Miami nearly a decade ago.

It’ll be interesting to see if Shockey winds up catching passes next season from Jimmy Clausen or if the Panthers will select a quarterback with the top overall pick in April’s draft.

NFL combine notes: Orton, Henne, Shockey and crazy ‘ol Al Davis

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from team press conferences Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

Fox names Orton his starter “right now.”
New Broncos head coach Jon Fox told reporters that Kyle Orton and not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback as of right now. Fox said that he’s interested to see how Tebow looks but noted, “As far as I’m concerned, (Orton) is under contract and he’s the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.” It’s not surprising that Fox would side with the more seasoned quarterback, seeing as how he refused to give up on Jake Delhomme in Carolina until the bitter end.

Titans don’t plan on meeting with Shockey
New Titans head coach Mike Munchak said that the team has no plans to speak with free agent Jeremy Shockey about coming to Tennessee. As I wrote the day the Saints released him, I see Shockey winding up in Miami to play under new OC Brian Daboll (who loves to use his tight ends, almost to a fault sometimes).

Henne is still the Dolphins’ starter
Speaking of Miami, GM Jeff Ireland referred to Chad Henne as his starter during his press conference on Thursday. It looks like Henne is the clear-cut favorite to enter the 2011 season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, although don’t rule out Miami taking a flier on someone like TCU’s Andy Dalton or Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi in the middle rounds.

Revisiting the Jeremy Shockey trade; could he wind up in Miami?

The Saints dumped tight end Jeremy Shockey on Tuesday and while some are surprised by the move, it’s hard to fault New Orleans given the circumstances.

Shockey was scheduled to make $4.5 million next season, is injury prone and was less effective than fellow tight end Jimmy Graham in Sean Payton’s offense last year. At 30, it’s clear that Shockey’s best days are behind him and his nine seasons in the league have taken a toll on his body.

As often the case when a player is cut, his release got me thinking about the trade the Saints made in 2008 to acquire him from the Giants. On paper, New Orleans definitely got the better end of the deal. Shockey racked up 139 receptions, 1,460 yards and six touchdowns for the Saints over the last three seasons. He also helped them beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV by catching a touchdown pass in the second half.

The second round pick that the Giants acquired in the deal was used on linebacker Clint Sintim, who only has 33 tackles in two seasons and regularly can’t find the field. The fifth round selection that New York also received in the trade netted quarterback Rhett Bomar, who is now on Minnesota’s roster.

But just because Sintim hasn’t panned out (yet) doesn’t mean the Giants didn’t find value in trading Shockey. It’s well known that he was a constant distraction for Eli Manning, who went on to have a career-year (statistically, at least) in 2009 when Shockey was in New Orleans. It has also been noted that Manning played better the year the Giants won the Super Bowl because Shockey suffered a season-ending injury in December.

Thus, trading Shockey offered New York addition by subtraction.

Where he’ll resurface is anyone’s guess but if I were to make a prediction I would say Miami. He played for “The U” in college and while Anthony Fasano is a solid option as both a blocker and receiver, new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll loves to work the middle of the field with his tight ends (almost to a fault).

Of course, the Patriots proved last year that teams can be highly effective with two tight ends, so Shockey could wind up anywhere.

Shockey recovering after suffering a seizure

Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey is recovering at the hospital after suffering what is being called a seizure on Thursday. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Shockey was working out in the team’s weight room when he suffered “seizure-like” symptoms and had to be rushed to the emergency room.

(Darren) Sharper, who was was present at the time, said it was scary to watch. He said it was clearly more than cramping and Shockey was struggling for about a minute while trainers helped him. He was up and walking on his power soon after, Sharper said, and later Shockey said he just felt a little light-headed.

It is not clear how long Shockey will be hospitalized. The Saints have not provided any information on Shockey’s status.

The tight end had this to say via Twitter: I am ok, thanks to everyone who has shown their concern don’t worry about me I will be fine.. WHO DAT

I’m not suggesting that the two symptoms are related, but Tony Gonzalez suffered a bout of facial paralysis known as Bell’s Palsy in early 2007 when he was a member of the Chiefs. That too was brought on when he was lifting weights at his house, so the correlation between the two incidents is interesting. (Again though, I’m not saying that Shockey suffered from the same thing.)

Glad to hear Shockey is okay and hopefully he has nothing to worry about long-term.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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