NEW YORK — This is the week in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" affair during which all parties will have what could be their final chances to be heard before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And Goodell hopes that all will have rested their case by the end of the week.
With an Monday afternoon meeting with the NFLPA looming, and four appeals on his docket for later in the week, Goodell spoke of pursuing a conclusion in the Saints scandal as he made a promotional appearance at the league’s new pop-up store in midtown Manhattan.
"I think we all need to move forward," Goodell said. "I think it’s important for all of us to be open about what we’ve been able to find. We’ve released it publicly. We’ve given the NFLPA two of our confidential reports, which we’ve shared with our clubs — they’ve gotten the same report. And we’ll have the meeting today, hopefully they’ll get some more information, we’ll get a recommendation from them."
The union position has been that it’s not the NFLPA’s place to make a recommendation on the severity of sanctions set to hit a number of its members, some percentage of the 22-27 Saints cited in the league’s 50,000-page report. Rather, according to sources, the NFLPA’s legal team that arrives in New York Monday was coming to gather further clarity on the scope of evidence against players in the case.
That, according to Goodell, will not be a problem.
"For the last month, we’ve made it clear that we’d be happy to share the information," the commissioner said. "I’ve said from the first moment I told De about this information that I’d be happy to share it with him, and make sure he understood what happened."
The league already has levied punishments against the club itself, general manager Mickey Loomis, coach Sean Payton, assistant Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. All but Williams have filed appeals, and all will be heard by the end of the week, with the expectation that decisions will come quickly.
Goodell was asked if Payton and Loomis will meet with him Tuesday, and answered, "I don’t know yet. I believe it’s later this week."
But the commissioner was very clear about his feeling on why stringent discipline was needed.
"This has been going on for three years," Goodell said. "We’ve been investigating this, we’ve met with various personnel with the Saints. And for three years, they denied this was going on. It’s clear it was going on, and that’s one of the reasons the punishment is harsh. I think, from our standpoint, we want to find out (during the appeal) if there’s information that we’re not aware of and take that into consideration, and we’ll deal with it from there."
When asked why the investigation took so long, Goodell said, "Because they denied it — they denied it repeatedly. And eventually, we were able to get a credible source that came up late last year that gave us information that made it clear that it was going on."
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and the union’s legal team met with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith, and ex-Saints linebacker Scott Fujita at the organization’s player rep meeting in March in Marco Island, Fla., to gather more information.
The union has also hired outside counsel to handle the case, and has told players that criminal charges are possible, but a very remote possibility. Asked about the possibility of criminal charges against the team, executives, coaches or players, Goodell said, "I don’t know. That’s up to the lawyers. We have to focus on our part of the process, which is to evaluate all the information and make determinations."
In the meantime, Payton has acknowledged talking with Bill Parcells about taking his place on an interim basis. Some have criticized the idea, saying Payton shouldn’t be able to pick his successor, but Goodell saw it differently.
"I don’t agree with that," Goodell said. "At the end of the day, these are management decisions that (owner) Tom Benson has to sign off on. He’ll get recommendations, from Sean and Mickey, I’m sure, and others, and make his determination. If it ends up being Parcells, and they’ve gone through the full process, that’s their decision. They need to make those decision."
As for the possibility of a Parcells return, Goodell said, "Bill’s a great coach, and he will add a lot of personality and intrigue, and he’s as competitive as they get. I’m sure he’ll do a great job."
Also brought to Goodell’s attention was the "Save Sean Payton" rally held in New Orleans over the weekend. The backlash in New Orleans wasn’t among his concerns.
"We have 32 clubs. We have rules in the league. And when rules are violated for three consecutive years and they deny it, there are gonna be consequences," Goodell said, noting he’d talked to "dozens" of players in the last few weeks. "That’s the way it works. We have fans in 31 other markets that want to make sure the game is played the right way. I know the fans in New Orleans get frustrated by what happened, and I understand that, but they also want the game played the right way, and we’re going to ensure that."
WORK ETHIC: Jason Garrett doesn’t mind signing players who have had to fight for their place in the NFL
Jason Garrett likes players who have had to work for what they have in the NFL.
Don’t misunderstand – he has no problem taking premier players.
But as the Cowboys coach talked last week about some of the free agents who have joined the team, it came up that offensive guard Nate Livings – who signed a five-year deal worth $19 million to join the Cowboys – was undrafted out of college.
“We don’t consciously go get guys who are free agents, but sometimes you like the path those guys have taken because they’ve earned it,” Garrett said at the NFL owners meetings last week.
Livings came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. So did Miles Austin and Tony Romo, the two most notable examples of undrafted free agents on the Cowboys (and perhaps the NFL).
But they aren’t the only ones. Center Phil Costa, tackle Jeremy Parnell and safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted free agents two years ago.
Last year, four undrafted rookies made the team –guard Kevin Kowalski, linebacker Alex Albright, kicker Dan Bailey and running back Phillip Tanner made the team.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, re-signed by the Cowboys, was an undrafted out of Virginia in 2009.
“It’s unfair to say you want a team made up like that because there are a lot first-round picks who have those same qualities and traits,” Garrett said. “One thing I know about the NFL, in my years of playing and coaching, is there is going to be adversity. If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you’re going to be able to withstand that inevitable adversity that happens.”
The Cowboys’ free-agent signings this spring included three low-round picks.
Cornerback Brandon Carr, the top-dollar signee, was a fifth-round pick.
Guard Mackenzie Bernadeau was a seventh-round pick.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers was a sixth-rounder.
“Guys who come from those backgrounds, who have earned their way, have typically faced adversity,” Garrett said. “They have been rejected. They weren’t the No. 1 recruit, so they went to this school instead of that school that maybe they wanted to go to, or they weren’t the starter right away, so they worked their way up the depth chart. … You like guys who have a little bit of history dealing with adversity, and hopefully that will reflect throughout your team.”
The NFL Players Association is hoping to not only discover concrete evidence that New Orleans Saints players were directly tied to bounties, as the league has found, but also to get a basis to determine whether punishments meted out are specific to allegations, players’ association spokesman George Atallah said Monday.
The NFLPA will meet with the NFL on Monday — and maybe longer — to pour over evidence the NFL has offered to share regarding its lengthy investigation into the scandal that has led to lengthy suspension, fines and lost draft picks.
The 22-27 players cited in the scandal that occurred between 2009 and the 2011 seasons have not been disciplined because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would like recommendations from the NFLPA, which very well might not happen, according to Atallah.
Goodell, by the league’s collectively bargained by-laws, does not have to seek counsel from the NFLPA before issuing discipline against players.
The players’ association might not recommend discipline because there is suspicion that it might not carry any weight in Goodell’s rulings. If players appeal, any NFLPA recommendations for discipline also could work against them.
"We want to get some sort of look at concrete evidence of player involvement and levels of player involvement," Atallah said. "That is why looking at the evidence is important to us. At least there is a correlation to where the punishment fits the crime, if you will."
Saints coach Sean Payton is appealing his season-long suspension; Loomis is appealing his eight-game suspension, assistant head coach Joe Vitt is appealing his six-game suspension and the team is appealing its $500,000 fine and loss of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. Those appeals will be heard — and likely ruled upon this week.
Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, does not plan to appeal his punishment. The NFLPA has no jurisdiction over non-players.
The meeting with the NFL and NFLPA to review evidence stems from the NFL re-iterating Friday an offer that has stood for weeks for the NFLPA to look at the league’s gatherings. The NFL has shared two summaries with the NFLPA but the union has sought more information, such as video, email or other evidence to corroborate the current charges.
Besides interviewing Saints players Drew Brees and Will Smith as well as former Saints and current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita at the recent players association meetings, the NFLPA has interviewed numerous players with the Saints during the alleged time frame of the charges, Atallah said.
RELATED: NFLPA Union expects lawyers to gain access to "bounty’ evidence
NEW YORK — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he will meet with the NFL Players Association on Monday to discuss player involvement in the Saints’ "bounty" program.
The NFLPA has hired outside counsel to help it navigate the potential player sanctions related to the "bounty" case.
Goodell also said while appearing on CNBC on Monday, via The New York Times, that he expects to have a decision on the appeals of those already punished by the end of the week. The NFL expects to hear the appeals from coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis and the team at some point this week.
The union’s contingent will be made up of lawyers. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith may or may not be a part of the group, but the source said the intention of the visit is clear — the union expects its lawyers to see the full scope of the evidence as it relates to player involvement in the case.
To this point, the NFLPA has seen the executive summary distributed to owners, which includes examples of the transgressions. But it has not seen video of incidents or hard evidence yet.
The union also warned players involved that criminal charges could be sought eventually against the perpetrators, but couched it as a very remote possibility.
In an attempt to investigate the case independently, Smith and the union’s lawyers also met individually with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith, as well as ex-Saints linebacker Scott Fujita at the NFLPA player rep meeting in Marco Island, Fla. in March.