Goodell: Saints fans innocent

NEW ORLEANS -- The lightest moment of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s Friday news conference might have come when he was asked about the welcome he is receiving in a city where he’s Public Enemy No. 1.

“I couldn’t feel more welcome here," Goodell said. “When you look back at my picture, as you point out, it is in every restaurant. I had a float in a Mardi Gras parade. You’ve got a voodoo doll."

Goodell has been viewed as a villain throughout the bounty saga. Turning more serious, he said that’s no surprise.

“I understand fans' loyalty is to the team," Goodell said. “They had no part in this. They were completely innocent in this. So I appreciate the passion. I saw that for myself when we were down here for [Hurricane] Katrina. It’s clear that's what they’re all about. I support the fact they’re passionate."

But Goodell emphasized the fact that not everyone was innocent, even though the player suspensions he ordered were vacated on appeal.

“Let’s make sure the record is clear," Goodell said. “The first penalties were vacated only briefly to make sure there was a distinction between what was a salary-cap violation and what was discipline on the field, which that body, as established by the CBA, made it very clear that it was the authority of the commissioner."

Goodell said he wishes the NFL Players Association and the league could have worked in harmony on the bounty issue.

“My biggest regret is that we aren’t all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game and to make the game safer," Goodell said. “Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That’s what I regret, that I wasn’t able to make that point clearly enough with the union and with others. But that’s something we’re going to be incredibly relentless on."