Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:47 pm

Williams meets with NFL Security

Gregg Williams, one of the men at the center of the bounty controversy involving the New Orleans Saints, met with officials from NFL Security on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

I'm told these officials had a great many more questions for Williams about his role not just in the Saints' scandal but also if he was involved in other instances of organizing bounties. Newspaper reports have linked Williams to bounty programs at his previous coaching stops in Washington and Buffalo. No other details of the meeting were available.

The NFL's investigation, I'm told, is focusing on the players involved in the Saints bounty scandal but perhaps even more on Williams, coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis.

One message the NFL wants to make clear is that coaches and managers are responsible for the actions of their players and others. Commissioner Roger Goodell also wants to make a statement that player safety is paramount.

It's expected the NFL will release its disciplinary decisions within the next few weeks.
Category: NFL
Posted on: March 3, 2012 9:20 am

Sean Payton book sheds light on bounty scandal

Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints and now in the middle of one of the biggest scandals in NFL history, wrote a book several years ago called "Home Team." Nothing special about it. Not all that good. It details Payton's rise in the NFL and how the Saints won the Super Bowl. Now, in light of this scandal, the book has become extremely important.

Mainly because it does three things. One, it shows just how extensive a control freak Payton is. So any type of defense that he didn't know simply won't fly. Payton is one of the most detail-oriented coaches in the sport. Second, several passages of the book demonstrate Payton doesn't really give a damn about NFL rules. Now, that's not unusual for a head coach but again, with the bounty investigation, that notion takes on an entirely new meaning.

Third, and most important, it goes into extensive detail about Payton's relationship with one of the central and most shadowy figures from this scandal and that's felon Mike Ornstein who is a close friend of Payton's and, according to NFL documents, himself contributed cash to the bounty pool.

One of the more relevant passages starts on page 231. It describes how Payton had Ornstein handle a lot of the Super Bowl preparation. It reads: “I had Mike Ornstein running special ops. Mike had no official title with the Saints. His name appeared nowhere on the team payroll or organizational chart. But he played an absolutely crucial role in the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, and hardly anybody knows what he did…More than anyone else I know, he understands how to get things done in the pro-sports world. He also has a taste for mischief…Now he was a close friend of mine and a great asset to the team, flying into Miami and softening up the off-field for us.”

He has a taste for mischief. I'll say. Ornstein was convicted of felony fraud.

Later, on page 233: "We agreed: If we were going to Miami, Ornstein would oversee the nongame logistics. Room assignments. Travel plans. How many tickets Reggie’s family might need. If you think issues like those can’t erupt into major catastrophes, you’ve never been involved in planning a Super Bowl. At any moment, a thousand things can go wrong. Much as I admired the skill and dedication of the in-house Saints staff, no one on Airline Drive had ever been through something of this magnitude.  ‘I’m telling you right now, you’re in charge,’ I said to Mike even before the play-offs began. ‘Work with our people. But if there’s something you want to do that they don’t want to do, you tell me.’ I don’t know all the details of what Mike Ornstein did. But I do know the players and their families were extremely well taken care of. I know the stupid distractions were kept to an absolute minimum. I know we dreamed up a bunch of little irritations to get under the skin of the Colts. And there was Ornstein with a tiny smile on his face."

Page 235: "Every detail from that moment forward was designed to make a point.  When each player got up to his room, there was more in there than free stationery and little bottles of shampoo. There was a Sony video camera. There were gift cards from Morton’s steakhouse, Subway sandwich shops and Cold Stone Creamery. There was a giant basket filled with candy, popcorn and a week’s supply of Title Sports Drinks. This might all sound minor in the hugeness of the Super Bowl. It was not…and every day, extravagant freebies kept showing up in the rooms…I don’t know exactly where all this stuff came from. Some I know we bought at a discount. Other stuff was donated by companies that wanted to be friendly—or were eager for good PR. We might have traded some tickets with Reebok…It was amazing how much difference these little touches made."

Payton also describes how he instructed Ornstein to break NFL rules by sneaking champagne into the locker room. "I'm ready to pay the fine," Payton said then.

None of this is a huge deal but it illustrates that close Payton and Ornstein relationship that has become a critical part of the NFL's investigation.

Category: NFL
Tags: Saints
Posted on: March 2, 2012 6:42 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 6:53 pm

NFL memo details more Saints bounty accusations

An NFL memo to all of its clubs details yet more of what is becoming one of the biggest sports scandals in recent NFL history. Details of the memo were obtained by me from a team official. Here is a summary of what parts of the memo states.

Funds for the Saints bounty system, the memo states, weren't solely contributed by players. People close to the Saints team contributed as well. One was a felon: Michael Ornstein.

Ornstein was once Reggie Bush's marketing agent and is close friends with Saints coach Sean Payton. Ornstein spent time in prison for fraud and the Saints -- somewhat -- have cut ties with Ornstein.

But in 2009 Ornstein was a fixture around the Saints site. The NFL memo to teams state that then Ornstein pledged $10,000 towards the quarterback bounty in 2009.

Then, on at least two occasions in 2011, Ornstein again contributed to a bounty fund on an opposing quarterback.

The NFL memo also states there was a bounty paper trail. Ornstein put details of the bounty system in an e-mail to Payton, according to the NFL memo. In that e-mail, Ornstein committed $5,000 towards yet another bounty.

This just gets worse and worse for the Saints. 
Category: NFL
Tags: Saints
Posted on: March 2, 2012 5:33 pm

The $10,000 Saints bounty

By now you've heard about the Saints and Bountygate. Specific examples are leaking from the many pieces of evidence gathered by the NFL. Here is one from an NFL source:

At times, the NFL says, players both pledged significant amounts of money for bounties and targeted specific players. Prior to a Saints game in January of 2010 Jonathan Vilma, a team captain, offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the game.

Favre was blasted in that game.

More of these will leak in the coming days in what is turning out to be a scandal bigger than Spygate.
Category: NFL
Tags: Saints
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:16 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:06 am

The Saints are fools for their treatment of Brees

The Saints and Drew Brees are far apart in their negotiations for a long-term deal which could lead to something players despise: the franchise tag.

But before we get into that, let's go down the list of things to like about Drew Brees. He's coming off a record-setting year. He's one of the top three quarterbacks in football. Pretty good, so far. He's an excellent teammate, great leader and solid guy. More? Not a blemish off the field. More? He was a key party of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina. On and on it goes.

Which is why it's a total mystery the Saints have yet to work out a deal with Brees. A league source says the two sides remain far apart and confirmed an ESPN report that New Orleans might use the franchise tag on Brees on Monday. Now, the ESPN report is slightly deceptive because if a team does use its franchise tag, they have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal and remove the tag.

My point is: What the hell are the Saints doing? I've said this before. There are certain players, only a handful, where you open the vault and roll out the cash. You give them a blank check. Brees is one of those players. Franchising Brees is going to anger him, no question. Players despise the tag because it limits their earning potential. So you've ticked off your best player. For what? Why?

The Saints want Brees and Brees wants to be a Saint, so in the end, Brees will get his long-term deal. It's just that the team is making Brees sweat it out. And that's just plain foolish.
Category: NFL
Tags: Brees, NFL, Saints
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:16 am
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Posted on: January 18, 2012 9:33 am
Edited on: January 18, 2012 10:10 am

The Daily Shoutout: Brees contract will get done?

OPENING HIT: Drew Brees' contract expires soon. It'll get done, of course. Right. Right? Hello? Is this thing on?

That's what the Saints continually say. Brees will be back, a new deal will come. I do believe that. Mostly. Kind of. But in speaking with sources on both sides of this there is a certain amount of digging in. The talks between the two sides (for now at least) have gone nowhere. That can change in an instant but for the moment the gap is wide.

I was once told months ago this would get done fairly easily but now there won't be anything easy about it. This has the potential to get long and nasty and could extend into off-season workouts and well into training camp.

I don't understand the Saints' handling of this at all. For everything Brees has done for that organization -- a Super Bowl, a class act, a great representative off the field post-Katrina -- you roll out the ATM machine for Brees. You pay the man. You freaking pay the man.

Trust me on this: Brees feels the same way. He'll never say it publicly but he does and I can't blame him. His contract status should have never, ever reached this point. It's a blemish on Saints ownership and management that it has.

According to NFL blogger Brian McIntyre, the Saints have $125M in cash committed (guaranteed and non-guaranteed) to players over 2012 and 2013. That's the second lowest in league to Cincinnati's $90M. That's pretty bad.

Time will pass, this will get done, but it may not be pretty along the way.

This could get nasty before it gets better.

Category: NFL
Tags: Brees, NFL, Saints
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:26 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:39 am

An NFL first: four Super Bowl MVP QBs in playoffs

If we already didn't know this was the year of the quarterback -- or the past decade of the quarterback -- this incredible fact seals it.

For the first time in league history the playoffs will feature four Super Bowl quarterbacking MVPs: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. This according to NFL PR guru, Dan Masonson.

That is a great deal of quarterbacking firepower and they're all in one playoff.

I'm thinking this record won't last long just like other offensive records that were obliterated this season. The NFL has geared the sport towards the quarterbacks and because of that it could be some time before a running back or defensive player, for example, earns MVP honors. Would it be a stunner if Ben Roethlisberger got to a Super Bowl this year, won the MVP, and then all five of these players make the postseason next year? No. See what I mean.

Quarterbacks have always ruled the sport but their dominance now is unprecedented and this latest interesting statistic only proves that.

Hell, who knows, with the way quarterbacks are dominating, maybe Andy Dalton will join the MVP Four next year.

Category: NFL
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