Saints players need to prepare for strong sanctions from Goodell

The aftershock of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's wrecking ball of sanctions in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal brought shock, anger, surprise, redemption and, we can suspect in some corners, fear.

The 22-27 players cited by the NFL in its investigation haven't been punished yet, but their day is coming, most likely in the next week or two. It probably won't be pretty, either.

Goodell said he'll work with the NFL Players Association and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to get their recommendations for discipline but the players association hinted that it won't be able to give Goodell adequate help without the NFL assisting its internal investigation.

In a statement released Thursday, the NFLPA stated: "NFLPA leadership looks forward to meeting with the Commissioner to discuss the League's 'Bounty' investigation. To date, neither the League, nor the Saints, have helped us facilitate interviews with members of management or the coaching staff. We expect the League to provide all information so that we can ensure a fair process for all who were involved."

The NFL declined to respond to the NFLPA statement Thursday. Goodell told me Wednesday that he's also eager to gather information from the NFLPA, although he didn't say if that would come via meeting, phone call, or other means of communication.

The NFL and the Saints do not have to help the NFLPA, which launched its own investigation after the NFL detailed the findings in its investigation March 2.

The players association wants to find out if Saints players were coerced into participating in the bounty program, according to a release it issued to announce its investigation. It should be able to find some information on its own because it does represent Saints players. If coaches and other sources won't cooperate, then it has to draw its own conclusions.

The NFLPA is doing due diligence and should be commended. Still, two things could work against the players when Goodell finally decides what to do: The NFL found that players willingly and enthusiastically participated in and funded the program. The league also cited a lack of honesty in its investigation.

If players lied in any way, shape or form, they're going to get it. Ask Michael Vick. Ask Sean Payton. If players didn't want to participate, they could have said no or reported their concerns to the NFLPA before all of this came to a head.

In his harsh sanctions against Payton, the Saints, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Goodell also countered recent arguments that he was hard on players but soft on non-players. These were stunning, surprising but emphatic measures that showed nobody is above the rules.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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