IRVING, Texas — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he “fundamentally disagrees” with former league boss Paul Tagliabue’s decision not to discipline players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.
Speaking Wednesday after an owners meeting in the Dallas area, Goodell said he respected his predecessor’s decision, and believed it backed up the commissioner’s conclusion that the Saints ran a bounty program for three years and covered it up.
But Goodell took issue with Tagliabue vacating the yearlong suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and shorter bans for three other current and former Saints players. In an NFL appeal ruling issued Tuesday, the former commissioner placed much of the blame with the Saints’ coaches and front office.
“I fundamentally disagree that this is something that lies just with coaches and management,” Goodell said. “I do think their leadership position needs to be considered, but I also believe these players were in leadership positions, also.”
Like Vilma, Saints coach Sean Payton received a yearlong suspension. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, and assistant Joe Vitt, who is now the interim head coach, was banned for six games. General manager Mickey Loomis got an eight-game suspension.
“My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,” Goodell said. “Player health and safety is an important issue in this league. We’re all going to have to contribute to that, whether you’re a commissioner, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re a player, and we all have to be held accountable for it.”
The 22-page ruling allowed both sides to claim victory more than nine months after the league first revealed the Saints’ bounty scandal to shocked fans, describing a performance pool operated by Williams that, among other things, rewarded hits that injured opponents.
On Wednesday, Vilma asked a federal judge to allow him to move forward with a defamation lawsuit against Goodell in U.S. District Court in Louisiana. Vilma’s lawyers filed a motion to drop his case against the NFL’s disciplinary process now that his suspension has been lifted.
Tagliabue didn’t find the players completely without fault, though. He said Vilma and defensive end Will Smith participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays — including hard tackles — while defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, following coaches’ orders, helped to cover up the program when interviewed by NFL investigators in 2010.
Vilma and Smith, suspended four games, have been playing for the Saints while the appeals were pending. Hargrove is not with a team. Tagliabue cleared linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns but on injured reserve, of conduct detrimental to the league.
ASHBURN, Va. — Three days after spraining his knee, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was just a little gimpy on the practice field and very cagey behind the microphone
He likes his chances of playing Sunday, but he and coach Mike Shanahan want to keep the Cleveland Browns guessing as long as possible.
Wearing his No. 10 jersey and a black knee brace underneath his sweatpants on a chilly day, Griffin high-stepped and moved laterally with barely a hitch as he stretched, then favored his right leg during throwing drills as the Redskins began on-field preparations for this week’s game.
“Sunday night, I thought there was probably no chance that I could play the next week,” Griffin said. “And then Monday morning, I felt better about it. Yesterday, I felt better about it. And today I feel really good about it, so it just depends on if I continue to progress the way I am.”
Griffin has a mild sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, a favorable diagnosis considering the scary hit to his leg from defensive tackle Haloti Ngata at the end of a scramble late in regulation in Washington’s 31-28 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Cards’ QB Kolb to IR
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals placed Kevin Kolb on injured reserve Wednesday, ending the season for the only quarterback who was able to lead the team to victory this year.
Kolb was beat out for the starting job in the preseason by John Skelton, a third-year pro from Fordham who went down late in the opener against Seattle with an ankle injury. Kolb came on to direct the winning touchdown drive against the Seahawks and helped the team get off to a 4-0 start.
But Kolb went out with a rib injury against Buffalo and had not been able to return.
The Cardinals have alternated between Skelton and rookie Ryan Lindley as they have been mired in a nine-game losing streak.
Grievance over Toradol waivers
WASHINGTON — The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance against the league’s clubs and its management council asking that team doctors no longer try to make players to sign waivers before being prescribed the painkiller Toradol.
The NFLPA said Wednesday that if a doctor believes a player would “be placed at an unacceptable medical risk by using Toradol … the team’s medical staff should inform the player of that opinion and refuse to administer Toradol. The NFL club physician should not administer Toradol and require that a player sign a waiver of liability before doing so.”
Lawmaker at odds with NFLPA over HGH testing
WASHINGTON — A congressman accused the NFL Players Association of “trying to back out” of an agreement to start testing for human growth hormone in pro football.
Speaking at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing about the science behind the testing, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, noted Wednesday that nearly two full NFL seasons have passed since the league and the players’ union signed a labor deal in August 2011 that set the stage for adding HGH to the sport’s drug program.
The NFLPA won’t concede the validity of a test that’s used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball, and the sides haven’t been able to agree on a scientist to help resolve that impasse. HGH is a banned substance that is hard to detect and used by athletes for what are believed to be a variety of benefits, whether real or only perceived — such as increasing speed or improving vision.
“They say they need more time … before doing what they agreed to do. To me, it seems obvious the Players Association is simply running out the clock,” Cummings said in his opening statement. “Although they agreed to HGH testing, they are now trying to back out of the contract.”
Cummings and committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, both said additional hearings are expected.