NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he ‘‘fundamentally disagrees’’ with former league boss Paul Tagliabue’s decision not to discipline players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
Speaking Wednesday after an owners meeting in the Dallas area, Goodell said he respected his predecessor’s decision, and believed it backed up the commissioner’s conclusion that the Saints ran a bounty program for three years and covered it up.
But Goodell took issue with Tagliabue vacating the yearlong suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and shorter bans for three other current and former Saints players. In an NFL appeal ruling issued Tuesday, the former commissioner placed much of the blame with the Saints’ coaches and front office.
‘‘I fundamentally disagree that this is something that lies just with coaches and management,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘I do think their leadership position needs to be considered, but I also believe these players were in leadership positions, also.’’
Like Vilma, Saints coach Sean Payton received a yearlong suspension. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, and assistant Joe Vitt, now the interim head coach, was banned for six games. General manager Mickey Loomis got an eight-game suspension.
‘‘My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘Player health and safety is an important issue in this league. We’re all going to have to contribute to that, whether you’re a commissioner, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re a player, and we all have to be held accountable for it.’’
Vilma moved forward with his defamation claims against Goodell, while Drew Brees 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. ‘‘We as players hold ourselves and are held to a very strict code of conduct both on and off the field. We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards.’’
Williams testified he tried to shut down the team’s bounty system when the NFL began investigating but was overruled by interim head coach Vitt, according to transcripts from appeals hearings obtained by the Associated Press.
According to the transcripts, Williams said then-assistant Vitt responded to a suggestion that the pay-for-pain setup be abandoned with an obscenity-filled speech about how Goodell ‘‘wasn’t going to . . . tell us to . . . stop doing what won us the Super Bowl. This has been going on in the . . . National Football League forever, and it will go on here forever, when they run [me] out of there, it will still go on.’’
Williams and Vitt were among a number of witnesses whose testimony was heard by former commissioner Tagliabue.
Accusing the NFL players’ union of ‘‘trying to back out’’ of an August 2011 agreement to start checking for human growth hormone, a congressman worried aloud that the league will head into next season without a test for the banned drug.
‘‘Hopefully as we move down the line, players will see how incredibly ridiculous it looks for them not to . . . straighten this thing out,’’ said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s ranking Democrat. ‘‘We’re now getting ready to go into a third season, and it does not look very good.’’
Marshall rips Packers
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall lashed out at Green Bay, saying he’s never disliked a team as much as the Packers.
‘‘I don’t like the Green Bay Packers,’’ he said. “I'm not going to use the word hate, but I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players. But the talk, you have to back it up. We'll go out there and we'll do everything we need to do to get a win.’’
The Bears (8-5) clearly need one after dropping four of five heading into Sunday’s home game against Green Bay. The Packers (9-4) clinch the NFC North if they beat Chicago. , so the stakes already were high.
Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain met with coach Dennis Allen before returning to practice after serving a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. McClain had not been at the team’s facilities since Nov. 28 when he was kicked out of practice following an argument with Allen. McClain was told not to return to practice and was suspended two days later . . . Giants coach Tom Coughlin has not ruled out running back Ahmad Bradshaw from Sunday’s matchup in Atlanta, despite a knee injury . . . The Cardinals have given up hope that quarterback Kevin Kolb will return, placing him on injured reserve and naming rookie Ryan Lindley as starter for Sunday’s game against Detroit . . . Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant went to see another doctor to help determine if he can play the rest of this season with a broken finger on his left hand . . . Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice has a bruised foot, is in a walking boot, and could be in question for Sunday’s game.