Commissioner Roger Goodell is confident that bounty hunting will no longer be an issue in the NFL because of the severe penalties handed out in the wake of the New Orleans Saints scandal.
Goodell said the actions taken by the league ”speak very loudly.”
”I heard that from our clubs, from our personnel,” he said during a news conference in Chicago on Thursday. ”They recognize it’s not part of the game. It doesn’t need to be part of the game. And I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”
The NFL said it found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams oversaw a bounty program in New Orleans from 2009 to 2011 which paid off-the-books bonuses of $1,500 for ”knockouts,” or hits which forced a player out of games, and $1,000 for ”cart-offs,” which left players needing help off the field.
Williams, who took a job as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, has since been suspended indefinitely and coach Sean Payton was banished for the 2012 season. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games.
There was also a $500,000 fine for the team and the loss of two second-round draft picks, not to mention suspensions for several current and former Saints players.
Current Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the upcoming season, while defensive end Will Smith got a four-game punishment. Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (three games) were also punished.
The NFL Players Association has challenged Goodell’s power to impose penalties and has asked an arbitrator to decide if the players should be punished for the system.
Goodell would not say if he thought the case would be resolved before the end of the season, pointing out that it’s in arbitration.
It’s one of several areas where the union has challenged the league during a combative offseason, including a grievance accusing the NFL of using a secret salary cap during the uncapped 2010 season that cost the players at least $1 billion. The union also filed a grievance for drug-related suspensions for two Denver Broncos.
Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell, whose lawyers requested a delay to respond, something the league calls routine in such cases.
”One of the things that’s made the NFL great is we’ve solved our own problems,” Goodell said. ”Several of those things are collectively bargained, which we’ve just concluded a 10-year agreement, and they’re in the collective bargaining agreement. I believe that our process has worked. We’ve modified those processes, even outside of the collective bargaining, to make them responsible and responsive to their needs. But we do want to make sure that at every point we uphold the standards that our fans expect.”
Goodell was at Soldier Field with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to recognize the stadium as the first to become a LEED-certified building, meaning it is considered environmentally friendly.
They also discussed the possibility of Chicago hosting a Super Bowl.
”We did speak about this earlier,” Goodell said. ”We are, as you know, hosting a Super Bowl in New York in an open-air stadium in 2014, and we’re excited about that. We think it’s going to be a great thing for our fans and a great thing for New York.
”If we can do it successfully there, and I think that opens up doors where we’ll be looking at. Obviously, you know how to host great events. … And you’ve got a great stadium.”
Emanuel touted the recent NATO summit as an example of the city’s ability to host a big event, with world leaders in town, and he said Chicago would be a ”perfect place” to have a Super Bowl.
Of course, everyone is familiar with Chicago’s reputation for savage winters and Soldier Field lacks a roof. It also holds just 63,500 fans.
Would the city have to enlarge the stadium to attract a Super Bowl? Emanuel would not say.
”The commissioner said something which is really, really important,” Emanuel said. ”The first step is to host something in New York, which is an open stadium.”
Goodell acknowledged that capacity ”is always an issue.”
”The most important thing now is having a great stadium and a city that can have the infrastructure to host the hundreds of thousands of people that come in,” he said.