METAIRIE, La. -- With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell facing increased scrutiny over his handling of the Ray Rice investigation, some, including former New Orleans Saints linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle, have begun to point out the contradiction in how Goodell handled the Saints' bounty investigation two years ago.
At the time, Goodell punished the Saints at the highest level, from ownership to the general manager to the coaching staff, claiming ignorance was not a defense if they weren't aware of the defense's alleged pay-for-performance bounty program.
Saints players and coaches were asked about that parallel on Wednesday. Everyone gave a similar response, saying they didn't know enough about the specific details in this case to pass judgment. But as Drew Brees said, Goodell does deserve to be held accountable for his actions as much as any player.
"We're all held accountable for our actions as players. Certainly every owner should be held accountable for their actions. The commissioner should be held accountable for his actions," Brees said. "I don't know the full story. I don't know who all does, but I think that's what is trying to be found out here. But everyone deserves to be held accountable for their actions, because certainly that's the expectation for players."
Coach Sean Payton said he hasn't given it much thought.
"With where we're at today and coming off a tough loss, that's like 150th on my priorities right now," Payton said. "Obviously I've seen the video [of Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator], and it’s disturbing. What else can you say? In regards to the league office, that's their issue to handle. For me there's too many other things right now that we're having to take care of."
Offensive tackle Zach Strief, who also spoke frankly about how disturbing the video was earlier this week, said he doesn't know how much fault belongs to Goodell in this case. But he still believes Goodell was wrong in the bounty case, when he handed out unprecedented punishments to Saints players and coaches. The player suspensions (including Vilma's season-long ban) were later overturned by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to handle the appeals.
"I don’t know what he should be held accountable for and what he shouldn't. I don't know what he knew," Strief said of Goodell. "Am I defensive of our situation here? Absolutely? Do I think he was wrong? One hundred percent. I think it was proven he was wrong. I think they went back and they got another commissioner that looked at the situation and said, 'This was handled incorrectly.' And I will always feel that way. Coach Payton lost a season, and it wasn't fair. That's what I know. But we've moved on from it, it's over.
"I don't know who even holds [Goodell] responsible, to be honest with you. That’s up to somebody else, not me."
"I'm definitely disappointed in Ray. I love Ray. He was a great teammate to me. And he's a guy that is very lovable. But to see that, I immediately said, 'That’s not the Ray that I know,'" Grubbs said. "So I just hope the best for them, being married [myself] over a year now, and they are newlyweds. It's going to be tough. It's a road they can travel, but they're gonna need definitely the good lord with them. And I'm praying for them. And I just hope everything works out in their best interest."