I think I left my position as vice president of officiating in the NFL too early.
Why? Because I used to love to see commissioner Roger Goodell when he was angry, I mean really pissed off!
I liked it better when others made him mad, but God knows I made him angry more than once. He would hold me accountable if there was an officiating mistake that happened on the field — especially if we failed to make a call when a defenseless player was targeted and illegally hit. It made no difference what time it was. I might be in the fourth quarter of the Monday night game nearing midnight on the East Coast. I would get the call in the command center.
He is that committed to player safety.
I learned a couple of things early on that Gregg Williams and the Saints obviously hadn’t. First was never to circumvent the rules. Second and most important, don’t BS Roger Goodell. He can’t stand to be lied to, period, no matter what the subject is.
And you want to raise the thinning hair of the back of his head? All we had to do was to bring up either of two words: gambling or bounties.
The thought of paying a player for a legal hit that causes an injury severe enough to cause the injured player to be “carted off” had to drive Goodell crazy. A reward for an injury! Then to lie about it directly to his face.
Sorry Payton and Williams, you underestimated the man.
This is the same man who called me two seasons ago, at 6:30 one Friday morning and ripped me when I wrote an article disagreeing with the amount of some of the fines being levied against players who I felt initiated unavoidable contact. He railed at me, saying that he was trying to change the culture of the game and I wasn’t helping.
So, am I surprised at the level of punishment handed down to the Saints? No. If anything, I wouldn’t have been shocked if both the fine and the draft choices had been higher. And he hasn’t even taken action against the players that were knowingly involved in this.
I’m not so sure that Jonathan Vilma and other Saints players should feel very comfortable now. One thing that Goodell achieved with this round of sanctions was to show the world that he would be consistent in the area of player safety whether he punishes a coach, a general manager or a player.
This was the commissioner’s chance to send a message. Some have said there have been bounties in the past. Well, the league has never been able to prove it until now. This was a clear opportunity for Goodell to make his point. He did it with “Spygate” and he is doing it now with “Bountygate.”
I really do have to hand it to Goodell. Those who have questioned his motives as he strives to protect players don’t know him. It is not about an 18-game regular season. It is not about the several hundred veteran players who have sued the league claiming that the NFL failed to disclose that it has known the risks posed by sustaining concussions but didn’t do anything about it.
Goodell’s motive has been pure and simple and consistent. He wants to take hits to and by the head out of the game, specifically when a player is deemed to be defenseless. He wants fewer injuries. He wants players in the game, not “carted off." He wants players to live healthy and happy lives after they have played the game.
I would imagine that if he were honest when asked the question, he would respond by saying that he hopes his legacy will be that he left the game safer for all men and women who chose to play the game at all levels. After all, rules are changing at the college level and below that mirror in many cases the rules that Goodell has passed at the NFL level.
I don’t always agree with you commissioner, but I do on this one. The Saints and Rams got what they deserved.