New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's suspension without pay for the entire 2012 season highlighted the severe penalties the NFL levied Wednesday in the "bounty" scandal, and Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear the league wasn't happy about being deceived during its investigation.
"This went on for three years, and it was investigated. We were misled, there were denials throughout that period," Goodell told NFL Network's Rich Eisen in a live interview. "Clearly, we were lied to. We investigated this back in 2010. We were told it was not happening, and it continued for another two years."
Many players around the league have voiced their incredulity over the severity of the penalties -- former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, and general manager Mickey Loomis will sit out the first eight games of the 2012 season -- but Goodell was emphatic that this kind of behavior will not be accepted in the NFL.
"I don't think you can be too hard on people that put at risk our players' health and safety," Goodell said. "That is a critical issue for us. ... We always protect that.
"It is clear that this policy was violated," Goodell added. "We took action as quickly as we could but wanted to be thorough and fair."