At the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio earlier this month, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson told me he planned to visit with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell soon.
Benson said he would ask Goodell for leniency in the year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton for his alleged role in the Saints bounty scandal.
The two men did meet in New York on Tuesday. What Benson should have said to Goodell was something like this:
"Roger, you have proved your point. You have put my head coach in his place. You have humbled him. In return, he has complied with all of your directives about no contact with coaches or players other than the few minutes he greeted his team in Canton.
Sean has kept his mouth shut. Why don't you give him a break?
We (the Saints) understand that the program, whatever it was, was wrong. But, no players on other teams suffered any serious injury. And, you have made your point about player safety.
It truly is time to move on. Please consider allowing our head coach to return at some point this season."
Benson knows that Goodell has disciplined others, only to shorten their suspensions later.
Quarterback Michael Vick was suspended in the summer of 2007 after being charged with being a ringleader in a five-year dogfighting scheme. He headed to prison in November of 2007. When he returned to the NFL after serving a 21 month sentence, Vick was suspended for the first two games of the 2009 season.
Since the ordeal, Vick has admitted that he was not truthful with Goodell when the allegations of cruelty to animals first surfaced.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has twice being accused of sexual misconduct. Although neither of the allegations were proven true, Roethlisberger was suspended for the first six games of the 2010 season. His suspension was later reduced to four games.
Recently in Canton, Goodell told reporters that one of the reasons for the severity of the suspensions to New Orleans personnel was because the Saints weren't truthful when the allegations first surfaced.
But Goodell has a proven record of leniency in cases involving two of the most high profile quarterbacks in the league.
In New York on Tuesday, Mr. Benson likely brought this to Goodell's attention. His message, as he told me in Canton, was to "put this whole thing behind us and move on."
It wouldn't surprise me if Goodell stood firm.
I think one of the reasons the Saints and Payton have been punished so severely is for arrogance. But the start of the regular season is three weeks away. It is time for the NFL to offer Payton the same deal of a lighter suspension that the league reportedly offered linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Admit you did something wrong. Have your suspension reduced to eight games.
Then, as the NFL likes to say, back to football.
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