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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Michael Vick won’t be punished by NFL for birthday party shooting

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 9: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on from the sideline in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Michael Vick can breathe easy, as the NFL has completed its investigation of the shooting that occurred following his 30th birthday party in Virginia Beach early last month and will not punish the Eagles’ QB.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Quanis Phillips, one of Vick’s codefendants in the dogfighting ring, was shot in the leg outside the party.

Virginia Beach police say they know the identity of the shooter but cannot file charges because witnesses are uncooperative.

Vick has not been implicated and his attorney has said he was gone from the scene before the shooting took place.

Vick was never a suspect in the shooting, but there was some question over whether or not he violated his probation by hanging out with a co-defendant from his dog fighting trial.

In the end, it appears as though the NFL couldn’t justify punishing him without more facts, which was the right course of action. Phillips could have been an unwanted guest and could have showed up at the party uninvited. As I wrote when this news broke, it’s not a crime to celebrate your birthday and if Vick had no idea that Phillips would show up, then it wouldn’t be fair for the NFL to punish him.

That said, Vick is still fortunate that this situation didn’t turn ugly for him. He’s already on thin ice as it is and one slip up could cost him the rest of his career, or whatever career he has left. It would be wise for him to keep a low profile from here on out.

Vick anyone? Eagles dominate Panters, but lose McNabb

The Eagles thumped the Panthers 38-10 on Sunday in Charlotte, but their mood went from jubilation to concern after quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a rib injury after rushing for a touchdown in the third quarter.

McNabb was able to walk off the field under his own power, but he was clearly in discomfort when he returned to the sidelines in the fourth quarter. The Eagles haven’t announced how long McNabb will be out for, or if he’ll be out at all.

What’s interesting about this injury is that Philadelphia’s backup quarterback is Michael Vick, who won’t be available until Week 4 until after he’s done serving a three-game suspension. Kevin Kolb will start next week if McNabb can’t play.

Even though Vick brings an added dimension to the field as a runner, him starting would be a worst-case scenario for the Eagles. Philadelphia is a serious Super Bowl contender and need McNabb (who is the far superior passer to Vick) under center. Outside of a couple of preseason games, Vick hasn’t played in two years and would need time to shake off the rust following his suspension.

But maybe this is all a moot point. McNabb might not miss any time and even if he does, Kolb is going to get the chance to start while Vick is out. If he plays well, it’s highly doubtful that Andy Reid would turn the keys of the offense over to Vick.

As for the Eagles’ opponents on Sunday, this was a worst-case scenario for a Panthers team that was hoping to put their disastrous performance against the Cardinals in last year’s divisional round of the playoffs behind them.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme had another awful performance while completing just 7 of 17 pass attempts for 73 yards and four interceptions. Why Carolina refuses to develop a young signal caller behind Delhomme is beyond me. If his performance on Sunday was any indication of how he’ll do the rest of the year, then the Panthers are in serious trouble.

Update: is reporting that McNabb fractured a rib, but Reid stated that the quarterback might still play next week.

Vick eligible to play in Eagles’ third game

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that Michael Vick will be eligible to play in the Eagles’ third regular season game in 2009.


Goodell and Vick had met Thursday morning for 45 to 50 minutes in New Jersey to discuss when Vick might be reinstated. After that, Goodell said, he consulted with Vick’s mentor, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, for another 45 minutes.

“Hopefully we can have a success story here, which would be good for society in general,” Goodell said. “He’s realistic about the challenges ahead. And anxious to play football.”

During their meeting Thursday, the topic of Vick’s past experiences and why he got involved in dogfighting came up. One of Vick’s representatives was explaining it, when Vick stepped in and took responsibility. “He was genuinely remorseful,” Goodell said.

Goodell said he did discuss with Vick the report that he was seen drinking an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant at the hotel where he was staying. Goodell said it was not a violation of his probation.

Just because he’ll be allowed to play in Week 3 doesn’t mean that Goodell won’t watch Vick like a hawk. He’ll be on an extremely short leash and he better be on his absolute best behavior.

It’ll be interesting to see how Vick does tonight in the Eagles’ final preseason game. He’s supposed to see extended snaps while Donovan McNabb sits in preparation for the regular season opener.

Stallworth suspended for 2009 season

According to a report by, the NFL has suspended Browns receiver Donte’ Stallworth for the entire 2009 season without pay.

In a letter to Stallworth made public Thursday, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “I believe that further consequences are necessary” in addition to the punishment handed down by the legal system.

“There is no question that your actions had tragic consequences to an innocent man and his family, and that you have violated both the Substances of Abuse and Personal Conduct Policies,” Goodell said. “In that respect, you are clearly guilty of conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL.”

“Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations,” Goodell said.

People are immediately going to compare this suspension to the one that Michael Vick will receive (four to six games) and think that Goodell was harder on Stallworth than he will be on Vick. But don’t forget that Vick already served 23 months in jail, so that plays into the length of his suspension.

Then again, even though the 30 days Stallworth got for killing a pedestrian was light, he has showed remorse from the moment of the accident and has accepted his punishment. Vick, on the other hand, lied from the get-go about his involvement with dog fighting and, at least in some people’s eyes, has yet to show much remorse. He lied to Goodell, lied to Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and lied to the public. So why should he only get a four or six game suspension while Stallworth is suspended 16 games? It’s an interesting debate.

Either way, Stallworth’s career is definitely in jeopardy. It’s highly doubtful that he’ll ever play for the Browns again and given his age, (lack of) production and durability concerns, other teams may pass on him as well.

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