Drew Brees slams bounty probe

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Thursday that commissioner Roger Goodell appeared to have changed his reasoning in punishing Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita, based on the letters Goodell sent both players in re-issuing their suspensions, and reiterated his stance that the league's bounty investigation was a "sham."

In an interview Thursday with ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," Brees said he has seen the letters sent to teammate Vilma and former teammate Fujita, who is now with the Cleveland Browns.

"It's interesting because it seems now that Fujita is being suspended for contributing to a program outside the so-called Gregg Williams bounty program that gave money for forced fumbles and sacks," Brees said. "So now Fujita is being suspended for something completely different than what he was accused of originally."

Brees said that based on the letter Vilma received from Goodell, all of the NFL's players should be wary.

"In Vilma's letter, it basically says no matter if pledges were disclosed or not, up for consideration or not, or paid or not, any actions or rhetoric that encourages injuring or disabling opposing players warrants discipline," Brees said. "In that case, I think that just about every coach and player in the league might be a little scared right now for anything they have said. It seems like these punishments have been handed down based upon speculation and rhetoric."

Each of the four players suspended in the bounty scandal -- Vilma, Will Smith, Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- is expected to appeal Goodell's redetermination ruling from this week, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter Thursday.

The players must file their appeal officially by the end of business hours Friday. Fujita is the only player to publicly state he planned an appeal.

"If Goodell won't appoint another person to hear the appeal, they'll go to court," one source familiar with the players' thinking said. "So I assume that's where this goes."

On Tuesday, Goodell upheld the suspensions of Vilma (for the season) and Smith (four games) and reduced penalties for Fujita (three games to one) and Hargrove (eight games to seven). His new ruling came about a month after an appeals panel created by the NFL's labor agreement vacated the original suspensions on technical grounds, informing Goodell he needed to clarify the reasons for the punishment.

Fujita released a scathing statement about Goodell on Wednesday, in which he accused the commissioner of abusing his power.

In an interview Thursday with the NFL Network, Brees said he concurred with Fujita.

"I agree with everything that Scott Fujita said in his statement. I thought it was a strong statement, certainly very true," he told the NFL Network.

Brees also was asked about Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw's recent comments to WFAN radio in New York. The former Steelers quarterback criticized Brees for having asked the NFL to allow suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt to attend the Oct. 7 game against the San Diego Chargers, as Brees was seeking to break a tie with Johnny Unitas for the NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

"We've acknowledged for the most part that this whole bounty thing is just a big sham," Brees said. "And so the fact that our coaches are suspended for part of the year or the entire year is pretty ridiculous."

Brees said his record of 48 consecutive games with a touchdown pass has been four years in the making, so it was justified to have the men who helped bring him to New Orleans to be in the building when he achieved the mark.

"In my opinion, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton and Joe Vitt were as big a part of this night as anyone, so certainly the opportunity to be in the building or be a part of it was important to me," he said. "Those are all the guys that brought me to New Orleans, brought all of us to New Orleans to help build the foundation of what we've been able to create there. I thought it was very appropriate that they were there."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.