NEW YORK — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is still doing interviews regarding player punishments that likely will be handed down for the Saints’ pay-for-hits bounty system.
Speaking to reporters at an NFL draft event on Wednesday, Goodell said he doesn’t expect to issue a decision this week, but the league is “in the final stages of working on discipline involving the players. We hope to do that very soon and get that behind us.”
A league investigation found that from 2009-11 New Orleans coaches and players put together a bounty system that paid out improper cash bonuses for hits aimed at knocking opposing players out of games. The NFL says as many as 27 Saints participated.
Goodell has said that he rejects any defense that they were merely following orders.
“The evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this,” Goodell said in a podcast with NFL Network host Rich Eisen, which was excerpted on NFL.com. “They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the program and they actually are the ones playing the game. They are on the field so I don’t think they are absolved from any responsibility because of that.”
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely for his role in the bounty program. Saints coach Sean Payton is serving a season-long suspension for failing to stop the scheme, while assistant Joe Vitt is banned for six games and general manager Mickey Loomis is out for eight.
Loomis and the Saints are the subject of a separate FBI and Louisiana state police investigation following an ESPN “Outside The Lines” report that Loomis had the Superdome wired so that, from 2002-04, he could listen to opposing coaches’ communications. ESPN could not verify the system was ever used.
The Saints and Loomis have vigorously denied the charges, which Vitt calls “ludicrous.”
“The federal authorities are looking into it,” Goodell said. “We’ll wait and see if any credible information comes from that. At that point in time, we could take appropriate action.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.