Suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton Spoke to the Media for the First Time Since News of the Bounty Scandal Broke
Embattled New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton surfaced for the first time since news of the NFL’s Bounty Investigation broke in early March. Payton held a press-conference for a small group of reporters where he fielded questions regarding the implementation of the bounty system by Gregg Williams, the NFL’s investigation of the allegations made, and the punishment handed down by League Commissioner, Roger Goodell. Looking “as if he hadn’t slept in days” to those in attendance, Payton answered all questions posed to him during the 17 minute session. Some of the highlights:
- Payton is well known through out the League for his attention to detail. One reporter asked if he was aware of the bounty system former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams implemented. Payton: “The first awareness, specifically, was after the ’09-’10 season. That’s when the League came in and visited with a few people”. Payton is essentially saying he really had no idea what was going on with the defensive side of his team. I find that really hard to believe.
- When asked if he was completely forthright with his answers in the two meetings with the Commissioner prior to the punishments being handed down, Payton responded by saying, “We take his office very seriously … In the two trips to New York I made sure to do everything in my power to answer the questions honestly”. Considering that on Monday, Roger Goodell was quoted as saying that the Saints mislead the League’s investigation “into the past several weeks”, that quote should have forced a strong follow up question. Like a slick politician, Payton was allowed to circumvent the truth with that answer and the reporters let him off the hook.
- Questioned on whether or not the Bounty System was what he wanted when he asked Gregg Williams to install a tough, “nasty” defense, Payton said, “Obviously, not”. I doubt he brought in Williams to implement a “Pay-for-Pain” scheme.
- Asked if any players sustained a serious injury as a result of a bounty and if he would accept responsibility for it, Payton answered, “No …no”. Twenty years from now, when Kurt Warner and Brett Favre are eating steaks through a straw and need assistance using the restroom, I want someone to ask him that question again. Seeing the way those two were brutalized in 2009 NFC Playoffs was hard to watch. It’s really sad that the effects of those hits most likely compromised the quality of life these two Hall of Famers will have in the future.
Payton also said he went “through a range of emotions” when the punishments were handed down. None of those emotions were sorrow for the athletes whose livelihoods he endangered. I have no way of knowing whether or not he truly is sorry for what he did, but similar to the statement he released last week, there was no direct apology to the players that were targeted. That truly bothers me. CBSSports’ Mike Freeman said it best: ” … the Saints institutionalized their bounty system. They did to bounties what McDonald’s did to hamburgers thus increasing the risk to player safety“. Roger Goodell has made player safety his top priority. Payton and his goon squad made a mockery of it. Payton could be viewed as brave for stepping up to face the media storm that has ensued. But a little more contrition could have gone a long way in softening the opinions of the general public.