NEW ORLEANS -- It was just a matter of time before the question was asked.
During his state of the union address on Thursday, in the city where his controversial decision-making process made him public enemy No. 1, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if he had any regrets about how he handled the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation.
Before he replied, Goodell chose to clarify one especially strong belief.
"Well, let me just let me take a moment and get back to, make sure everyone is clear and on the record. There is no question that there was a bounty program in place for three years," Goodell said. "I think that is bad for the players, for the game and I think the message is incredibly clear. And I don't believe bounties are going to be part of football moving forward. That's good for everybody. So I do think that message has come through clear."
"As it relates to the regrets, I think my biggest regret is that we aren't all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game and make the game safer," he said. "Clearly, the teams, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. And that's what I regret that I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union and others. But that is something that we're going to be incredibly relentless on."
In December, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue -- appointed by Goodell for a second round of player appeals -- vacated the suspensions of four players tied to the Saints' bounty program. Tagliabue said at the time that Goodell had found himself in an "impossible" spot, explaining that the controversy was "overshadowing everything Roger had accomplished in terms of emphasizing player safety."
At the height of the bounty scandal, pictures of Goodell were posted in restaurants throughout New Orleans with the message, "Do not serve this man." Goodell was asked about the city's hospitality toward him this week.
"I couldn't feel more welcome here. When you look back at it, my picture was in every restaurant, I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade, we got a voodoo doll," he said, drawing laughs.
"I'm serious, the people here have been incredible."
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.