Saints pay for not learning from Patriots

Saints pay for not learning from Patriots
March 26, 2012, 3:35 pm
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PALM BEACH -- It's deja vu in Palm Beach,

In the Spring of 2008, the NFL's annual league meetings were here and a large portion of that event was a bloodletting by the Patriots.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft stood before a room of their peers and apologized for videotaping opponents' defensive signals from the sidelines during games.

Accentuating the cleansing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell advanced a fair playsportsmanshipethics platform. Henceforth, coaches, GMs and owners were to police themselves and sign off that they were clean and pure as the driven snow.

And within a year, the New Orleans Saints were running a program in which players were rewarded for injuring opponents.

This week, Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis are expected to do some penance in front of their peers and the assembled owners.

There's been a lot of discussion about the Draconian punishment handed down by Goodell in this so-called Bountygate mess.

But to me, the reason the commissioner was so penal has its roots in the 2008 meetings. The Saints directly defied investigators, yes, but they also put pen to paper and signed off on their program being ethically clean.

Doing that while maintaining a bounty program was -- along with everything else -- a raised middle finger in the face of Goodell.

In handing down his punishment, Goodell specifically cited the amendment enacted in 2008.

"A 2007 amendment to the NFL Constitution and By-Laws obligated coaches and supervisory employees 'to communicate openly and candidly with the principal owner andor his designated representative; to ensure that club ownership is informed on a complete and timely basis of all matters affecting the clubs operations; and to avoid actions that undermine or damage the clubs reputation or operating success.' The obligation to supervise the coaching staff and players is also expressly set forth in the employment agreement signed by Coach Payton."

In addition to being on a different planet entirely from what the Patriots were cuffed around for in 2008, the Saints are also paying the price for ignoring the law-and-order, fair play standards handed down here at The Breakers four years ago.

And now they are where the Patriots were. In more ways than one.