METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees lit into Roger Goodell on Wednesday, saying that players and fans don’t see any credibility in the NFL commissioner, the man the Saints quarterback believes looked for an outcome instead of using a fair process in the league’s handling of the bounty scandal.
Additionally, Brees called the ruling by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue “serious vindication” for Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, the four players fined and suspended by Goodell for what he said were leadership roles in the program and cover-up.
“Thank God for the fight and the resolve that all those guys had for justice and to fight for a fair process because that’s all that they’ve ever wanted, that’s all that anyone within this organization has ever wanted,” Brees said. “The unfortunate thing is I feel like the NFL, through this whole process, including Commissioner Goodell, has been all about an outcome as opposed to a fair process.”
That outcome, Brees said, flies in the face of how the players are expected to act on and off the field, adding that the players are “held to a very strict code,” one in which the players are more than happy to be a part of.
But while the players are held accountable, Brees said the league office doesn’t appear to be. That’s something he’d like changed.
“What I would like to see is a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation,” Brees said. “We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards.”
He went on, “If someone would just come out in the league office and admit, you know what, we could have handled this situation better, it would go such a long way with both players and fans. I think people would really come around to realize what this thing was all about because right now the league office and Commissioner Goodell have very little to no credibility with us as players and I’d say with a lot of the fans because of the way that this has taken place.”
To that end, Brees took a turn usually reserved for anti-government believers, coming close to sounding the alarm of conspiracy.
“I hate to say this because it sounds so conspiracy theorist, but it seems like the last at least month or so, especially once Tagliabue stepped in, it’s very staged, as in OK, how do we get ourselves out of this mess, let the players off,” Brees said.
Brees wasn’t involved in the bounty investigation and subsequent penalties. However, as time moved on and more information was made public, he became more and more vocal. Wednesday just gave him another opportunity to voice feelings that appear to have been brewing for some time.
He echoed the thoughts of both Smith and Vilma that if the transcripts of the hearings are ever released, their side of the story will be heard and the reputations of the players will be returned.
That’s based on the testimony of Mike Cerullo and Gregg Williams, former Saints assistant coaches he labeled as disgruntled.
“I know throughout this whole case, our coaches, our players were lied to on many occasions by the league office, the investigators, as to where they were getting their information and everything else,” Brees said. “They made it seem like they had this rock solid case made up of other coaches and players when in reality, they had the testimony of Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo. Two disgruntled employees that were fired here because they did not fit the mold of what we are about.”
He added, “Clinically, the jury is probably still out on where these guys are at mentally. But to put all your eggs in that basket, to basically take the testimony of those two guys and deem it as fact versus fiction as it pertains to this organization and the members of this organization, the accused that have so much respect and credibility built up, is just hard to believe.”
In the end, Brees said it was nice that the players’ suspensions and fines were thrown out completely. However, he believes the organization as a whole still has an undeserved black cloud hanging over it after Tagliabue’s report put the onus on the coaches and leaders of the franchise.
“I’m very happy that we were able to get the players vindicated and their suspensions dismissed, but you can see in the decision yesterday that it was still very defamatory towards our organization and our coaches and the examination of the evidence and us standing in the way and the lying and manipulating and that kind of thing,” Brees said. “That’s unfortunate that we were still painted in that light.”