Mike "Saints Hater" Freeman changes his tune about the Saints
I'm breaking my rule of never linking to a Mike Freeman post because this one contains quotes and information supposedly from Saints players that I haven't seen before. The part about why the coaches can't speak up is particularly interesting.
For the past several weeks, some Saints players have contacted me, saying those accused in the bounty case, as well as the team itself, have been treated unfairly by the media (including by me). They spoke on the condition their identities were protected, fearing retribution from the NFL (in fact, Saints players said repeatedly that it can't be overstated just how much people in that locker room right now fear the NFL).
So I listened as Saints players told their side. What they said was somewhat eye-opening.
The overall message is that the NFL really doesn't have proof of a bounty system, and if it did, it would release that proof.
That's not a surprise. Where things get interesting is when players break down every piece of known evidence the NFL has released. That's when doubts about the NFL's case creep in. Creep. Not set up permanent residence, but creep.
This isn't to say the Saints are right. In fact, no player was able to answer satisfactorily the biggest question of all: Why would Roger Goodell risk his reputation and that of the entire sport on a bluff?
Nonetheless, players expressed these concerns:
• Players say they have seen the discipline letters from the NFL to the Saints' Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis. They claim those letters don't simply state the allegations and the imposed punishment. They claim the letters tell the four men, in general terms, that if they stay mostly quiet, the league will let them back into the sport after a certain number of games. (The NFL denied this, but wouldn't address other claims by Saints players.)
Implied in that, Saints players say, is that if the coaches do talk, their suspensions could go longer. This is why Payton and especially Williams have said almost nothing.