|While Goodell thinks bounties are a thing of the past, Vilma has sued the commissioner for defamation. (AP/Getty Images)|
Here's to hoping this isn't Roger Goodell's "Mission Accomplished" moment. The NFL Commissioner made an example of the Saints for the organization's involvement in the bounty scandal. From the front office to the locker room, no one was spared.
During a Thursday news conference, Goodell said that he is confident bounties will no longer be an issue, presumably because of the swift, severe sanctions levied against the Saints.
The actions taken by the league "speak very loudly," he said via the Associated Press. "I heard that from our clubs, from our personnel. 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."
That's a nice sentiment, but hunches, in general, aren't reliable predictors of future events. We've criticized Goodell in the past because of the random nature with which he hands down punishments.
For a quick refresher, here's what we wrote on the subject last September, shortly after the commissioner suspended Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryorfive games for transgressions that took place before Pryor was even in the NFL.
Goodell has shown in the past that he's willing to make unpopular decisions. Steelers backup quarterback and longtime Pryor mentor, Charlie Batch, recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Goodell has too much power.Looking ahead, it's worth pointing out that while the Saints general manager and several members of the coaching staff have had their appeals denied and will serve suspensions ranging from indefinitely (Gregg Williams) to six games (Joe Vitt), the four players facing suspension -- Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita -- could still have them reduced. On Wednesday, special master Stephen Burbank heard a grievance filed by the NFLPA on behalf of the four players claiming that Goodell didn't have the authority to issue punishments.
"He took it to another level when he said he was going to suspend Terrelle Pryor for five games and he wasn't even in the NFL last year," he said. "How can you do that? It's not right. It's not right at all."
Players have also taken issue with Goodell arbitrarily meting out punishments, perhaps none more vocal in recent years than Batch's teammate, linebacker James Harrison. (More proof that there appears to be no method to Goodell's perceived madness: he didn't suspend Kenny Britt or Aqib Talib for serious and persistent offseason incidents.)
Additionally, a similar grievance was heard by an arbitrator two weeks ago, and Vilma, suspended for the 2012 season by Goodell, has sued the commissioner for defamation. Which brings us to this tweet from Vilma on Thursday night:
Roger goodell has asked for a delay to respond to my defamation suit. He was granted until july 5th to respond. Interesting.— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) May 31, 2012
ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas recaps the particulars nicely: "Although the grievances and the lawsuit are separate matters, they have a common thread. The players are attempting to get the authority out of Goodell's hands and, in the case of Vilma's lawsuit, trying to force the league to show evidence of the bounty program."
We're not sure how Goodell's proclamation about bounties being a thing of the past holds up should an arbitrator ultimately rule in favor of the Saints players.
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