New Orleans Saints  

 

Goodell: 'We all need to move forward' from Saints' scandal

NEW YORK -- This is the week when all parties in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" affair will have what could be their final chance to be heard before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And Goodell hopes all will have rested their cases by the end of the week.

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"I think we all need to move forward," Goodell said Monday during a promotional appearance at the league's new pop-up store in midtown Manhattan. "I think it's important for all of us to be open about what we've been able to find. We've released it publicly. We've given the NFLPA two of our confidential reports, which we've shared with our clubs -- they've gotten the same report."

The league and NFL Players Association later wrapped up a meeting that lasted two-plus hours, though neither Goodell nor union executive director DeMaurice Smith was in attendance. Goodell also has four appeals on his docket to deal with later in the week.

The union has been reluctant to make a recommendation on the severity of sanctions set to hit a number of its members (the league cited 22 to 27 Saints players in its 50,000-page report on the program). Rather, according to sources, the NFLPA's legal team wanted to use Monday's meeting to gather further clarity on the scope of evidence against players in the case.

That, according to Goodell, wouldn't be a problem.

"For the last month, we've made it clear that we'd be happy to share the information," the commissioner said. "I've said from the first moment I told (Smith) about this information, that I'd be happy to share it with him, and make sure he understood what happened."

The league already has levied punishments against the team, general manager Mickey Loomis, coach Sean Payton, assistant Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. All but Williams have filed appeals, and all will be heard by the end of the week, with the expectation that decisions will come quickly.

Goodell was asked if Payton and Loomis will meet with him Tuesday, and answered, "I don't know yet. I believe it's later this week."

Knowledgeable sources told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora later Monday that no date has been set for the appeals to be heard.

Regardless of the timeline, the commissioner was very clear that stringent discipline is needed.

"This has been going on for three years," Goodell said. "We've been investigating this, we've met with various personnel with the Saints. And for three years, they denied this was going on. It's clear it was going on, and that's one of the reasons the punishment is harsh. I think, from our standpoint, we want to find out (during the appeal) if there's information that we're not aware of and take that into consideration, and we'll deal with it from there."

When asked why the investigation took so long, Goodell said: "Because they denied it -- they denied it repeatedly. And eventually, we were able to get a credible source that came up late last year that gave us information that made it clear that it was going on."

Smith and the union's legal team met with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, defensive end Will Smith and ex-New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita at the organization's player rep meeting in March in Marco Island, Fla., to gather more information.

The union also has hired outside counsel to handle the case and told players that criminal charges are possible but a very remote possibility.

Asked about the possibility of criminal charges against the team, executives, coaches or players, Goodell said: "I don't know. That's up to the lawyers. We have to focus on our part of the process, which is to evaluate all the information and make determinations."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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