NEW ORLEANS—One day after his suspension in the NFL’s bounty probe was overturned, Jonathan Vilma moved forward with his defamation claims against Commissioner Roger Goodell while Drew Brees and other teammates went on the offensive against Goodell and the league office.
“What I would like to see is a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation,” Brees said after practice yesterday.
“We, as players, hold ourselves and are held to a very strict code of conduct both on and off the field,” he noted.
“We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards.
“If someone would just come out in the league office and admit, ‘You know what? We could have handled this situation better,’ it would go such a long way with both players and fans,” Brees added.
“People would really come around to realize what this thing was all about because right now the league office and Commissioner Goodell have very little to no credibility with us as players.”
Speaking later at a special league meeting in Dallas, Goodell, when apprised of Brees’ comments, said he wouldn’t apologize.
“To have a bounty program, where you’re targeting players for injury, is completely unacceptable in the NFL, and it is clear that occurred for three years despite all of the denials,” Goodell said.
Vilma initially was suspended an entire season while three other players—Saints’ defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, received various suspensions of shorter lengths.
Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner appointed by Goodell to handle the final round of appeals, threw out the suspensions and ruled there would be no fines, either, for any of the players.
He added the suspensions levied by Goodell were disproportionate to how players historically had been punished for similar behaviour, and because there was no clear link to “tough talk” about taking opponents out of game and the actual play on the field.