Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and counsel, addressed the media on Friday at an Associated Press event. During this media appearance, he spoke at length on the Saints' situation and the NFLPA's role.
What follows after the jump is the transcript of the event that the NFL provided to nola.com (and maybe other media outlets, too).
And what will follow after that, hopefully, is lively discussion of this in the comment thread, as we hard-core CSCers dissect the words, examine the diction, criticize the grammar, point out the typos, and analyze the meaning of the content. Waiting for these player punishments is a b****, isn't it?
And just for s***s and giggles, here's NFL.com's take on Pash's Saints talk by their blogger Gregg Rosenthal.
Official NFL Transcript:
NFL EXECUTVIE (sic) VICE PRESIDENT OF LABOR AND GENERAL COUNSEL JEFF PASH
ON SAINTS BOUNTY-RULE VIOLATION
ASSOCIATED PRESS SPORTS EDITORS MEETING
April 20, 2012
On the status of the player discipline regarding the Saints bounty-rule violation:
We are moving toward making decisions on player discipline. I do think there will be player discipline that is appropriate based on the facts. We are moving toward that. It is important because it reinforces that there is a shared accountability here. What our investigation uncovered is a serious violation of our rules and a serious violation of our player safety policies. Obviously, strong action was taken with respect to the team, with respect to management and with respect to coaches. Players were clearly participants and clearly have a share of the responsibility and accountability here as well. That will be next, not today, but that will be the next step that we take.
This may have gotten a little bit lost, but I would point out one of the things the commissioner required back in March when he issued the initial set of penalties involving the teams, the coaches and the general manager was that every owner in the league sit down with his head coach and certify in writing that they do not maintain any such program at their club, that they have reviewed and understand the rules prohibiting any such actions and that they recognize their personal accountability for ensuring that there are no such programs at their club going forward and that rules relating to player safety and integrity of the game are adhered to and properly enforced. We did receive those certifications from all of the clubs, signed by the principal owner and the head coach of each club. One of the things that I am sure we will do over the course of the next several months as we lead into the preseason is reinforce the role that these rule prohibiting pay-for-performance or bounty-type programs have in maintaining player safety and the integrity of the game.
On the Saints bounty-rule violations as unique and no other bounty programs existing in the NFL:
We do not have evidence of the same character and quality as we had in New Orleans to suggest that there was a program where there were specific financial incentives that could lead to player injury. Am I saying that there is no program where someone could get $500 for picking off the quarterback and running it all the way back? I am not saying that, but those are going to stop as well because unfortunately, one can lead to the other. That is our concern. Those will stop as well.
On the difference between contractual incentive bonuses and non-contract pay-for-performance programs:
Something that is in a contract is one thing. That is something that you can monitor. Everyone is aware of it. It gets counted against the salary cap. What we are talking about stopping are the non-contract payments, which sometimes have been developed in the context of the guy who recovers the fumble, the guy who makes the interception or the guy who makes the tackle on the goal line but have also unfortunately included things like cart-offs and knockouts. We are going to stop those altogether for a variety of reasons, including making sure we don't find ourselves in a situation like this again.
On the Monday meeting with the NFLPA and the union's position on the Saints bounty-rule violation:
With respect to the discipline that has been handed down so far, the union doesn't take a position. It is fair to say they were protective of the players who could be disciplined in the next phase of this, and that was really what their focus was on, defending or excusing the conduct of the players who were involved in this program. That is unfortunate because the players who could have been injured and maybe were injured are also members of the union, and they are entitled to protection. Their interests, I think, are entitled to greater consideration and greater protection than the interests of the players who may have participated in this program or engaged in conduct that put the safety of other players in jeopardy. That could be a difference between us when the discipline on players in finally resolved and issued.
On requesting a recommendation on player discipline from the union:
The recommendation is not really so much on discipline. The commissioner recognizes that is his responsibility. Obviously, he will consult with (NFLPA Executive Director) DeMaurice (Smith) on it, as he consults with him on many things and as he has consulted with him on this matter from the very beginning, even before issuing the initial set of findings. The more important thing and where the union could play a very important and constructive role if it wishes to is in the context of what I was talking about a few moments ago. What do we do to make sure this kind of activity doesn't continue? The players know what went on in the locker room better than anybody else. They understand what happens on the field better than we will and better than we ever can. They ultimately can do as much or more to stop this kind of activity and to participate in changing the culture of the game than all of the edicts from Park Avenue.
I was at a conference last month where I was on a panel with a former player who was very involved in the collective bargaining negotiations. This question came up because it was just a couple days after the discipline had been issued. The question from the audience was, 'Do you think the players really had any choice? If the coaches said go get him, did they have any choice?'
This former player said, 'All that would have had to happen was for one respected veteran player to say, 'Thanks, coach, but I think we can handle this game without having to get into that,' and people would have rallied around him. I don't think any player was forced to do anything.'
I thought that was sort of an interesting perspective from someone who is obviously knowledgeable, experience, played and had a very respected career.
On players publically (sic) or privately thanking the league for its stance on the Saints bounty-rule violation:
A number of players have made public statements that doing anything that involves potentially injuring an opponent on the playing field is wrong and outside the bounds. That is what this former player with whom I was speaking said. The commissioner has spoken to a lot of players. He speaks to players all the time about a variety of things. I think he feels as if there is a lot of support for the position he has taken here.
Players recognize better than people like me can ever recognize what the risks of the game are. It is a physical game. There are injuries. It is going to happen even if you play clean. Most players are not looking to have it be riskier than it is already.
On if the NFLPA has delayed player discipline resulting from the Saints bounty-rule violation:
No, we have been trying to address this in a way which is consistent with how we addressed the team and non-player discipline in a way that is deliberative, thorough and fair. We know that the union said it was doing an investigation. We have asked them if they would be willing to share information with us on that. Thus far, they haven't been willing to do so, but we remain open to hearing whatever they have learned. They apparently have the tape of the (Rams defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams speech out in San Francisco. We were unaware of that until this past Monday. We still don't have the tape ourselves. If they have it, we would be interested in getting it. We obviously have heard what has been on the internet, but we don't have the actual recording itself. We have invited a number of players who we think have information, some of whom are still playing and some of whom are former players who we think might be knowledgeable, to speak with us. Thus far, players have not been willing to do that. We remain open to hearing their views and their knowledge. The players know what went on in the locker room in a way that we don't know.
We are trying to make sure that we are as thorough as we can be. The investigation that we have done thus far has been quite comprehensive. We have disclosed a lot of information on that. We invited representatives of the union to come in. They met with our head of security and the other member of our security department who performed the investigation. We shared with them some of the documents that we thought were particularly illustrative of what we had found. We remain open here. We are getting to the point where we will have as complete a record as we are going to have and it will be time soon to make decisions.
On if retired Saints players may face discipline:
Realistically, I don't think there is very much you can do to a player who is retired. You can't take money out of his retirement accounts or anything like that. Once someone is retired, that probably exhausts even the authority of the commissioner.
On determining player fines as a result of the Saints bounty-rule violation:
I don't believe what we are looking at here would be governed by the on-field fine schedule. Here, you are dealing with issues going into the integrity of the game. It is not the same as an on-field infraction.
I think the commissioner would have wide discretion and that's confirmed under the collective bargaining agreement in terms of what he can do either with respect to a fine or suspension for conduct detrimental. It's one of the things you have to sit down and sort through. You'll decide which players would be subject to discipline, what their relative level of culpability is perhaps and try to impose a sanction that corresponds to the conduct.
On how many players of the reported 22-27 would be subject to discipline:
The only people among the 27 who you would clearly say wouldn't be subject to discipline goes to players who are out of the league. Beyond that, you could potentially have sanctions involving any or all of those players. It would depend on, in each case, the strength of the evidence, the specific conduct that the player engaged in, was it a one-time thing and was it something that was repeated.
On the NFLPA's reaction to the idea that they should protect the players who are targets rather than the ones who violated the rule:
The Players Association's view would be that it understands what its obligations are. They don't need me to tell them. Part of their obligation, I think, would be to protect a player who is subject to discipline and make sure that player has the appropriate protections and due process. I understand that, but I think there should be at least as much concern for the people who are at risk. That's just me.
On the NFLPA addressing it with him at all:
The focus was on protecting the players who are at risk for discipline. That was really the focus of the conversation.
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Wow, HansDat cutting and pasting a transcript into a post. This almost feels like a post-game Who Dat Say!?!...ALMOST. How long until the regular season now? Are we there yet?