Something I've done in the painstakingly long "bountygate" process is accept that Roger Goodell is going to get his way, live with the fact that the Saints will be without numerous key coaches, front office members, and players, and just move on. I think it's time we all do that, honestly. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, at the end of the day, I still feel strongly about the fact that it doesn't really matter what the NFL has on the Saints. Goodell doesn't have the burden of proof, he has the freedom to penalize regardless of how circumstantial the evidence is (or is not). Here's the thing - if all that was in play was a pay for performance program (and no pay to injure program), Goodell could still dole out the exact same punishments he ended up giving the Saints. So either way, the situation is what it is and Goodell has already decided how he feels about it. That's not going to change. It's time to accept that, and the latest news is just delaying the inevitable. I'm not saying it's fair, and I'm not saying I like it - I don't - but it's reality.
If you're curious, the two exhibits the NFL submitted as their evidence is now available...
(exhibits 1-12 HERE
, exhibits 13-16 HERE
). Some of the evidence is pretty damning, without doubt, but how solid is the evidence? That's where I'm still not sure, especially given the recent rumors that Cerullo (the NFL's supposed star witness, who is coveniently a disgruntled ex employee who was fired) has recanted his claims. That's of course not stopping Jeff Duncan from rushing to judgment and once again nodding in approval to anything the NFL dishes out
on this topic. My personal favorite is Duncan's jab at Saints fans: "You'd have to be pretty naïve - or a blindly devoted fan - to not believe a program existed after reviewing the evidence in its entirety." That's a typical JD maneuver, immature and insecure enough to stoke the fire with pointed words at his detractors. I expect nothing less from him, and he continues to be as predictable.
One random thought I had about this whole ordeal: is Remi Ayodele back with the Saints because they needed depth at defensive tackle and regretted letting him go, or is he back because hushing him up was a much easier thing to do as his employer? We know he was right in the thick of this mess in 2009, specifically in the infamous Brett Favre/Vikings NFC Championship game. Maybe he was brought back for a little bit of both reasons? I'm not complaining, the Rogers-Franklin duo attempt was a disaster and if nothing gains loyalty from a player like giving them a paycheck.
But I digress, the NFL presented some evidence. Some of it seems a stretch at best, and some of it was information released long after the penalties were imposed. That supports the notion that the NFL didn't feel too good about their original evidence. It seems fairly clear to me the NFL got most of it's "evidence" from a tainted source. A fired employee with an axe to grind. But again, so what? That's all Goodell really needed, fairly or unfairly, to hang the Saints with. He's done it and he'd do it again. Blame the Saints for breaking the rules (and that they did with a pay for performance program at the very least), blame the NFLPA for giving Goodell a ridiculous amount of power under the new CBA, and blame Roger Goodell for furthering numerous agendas at the expense of a team buried by a witch hunt.
At least we'll still have football in 2012 and if Drew Brees actually plays we'll have a competitive product to root for.