On Monday, ESPN reported that from 2002 to 2004, the New Orleans Saints had maintained a system by which their general manager, Mickey Loomis, could sit in his Superdome box and eavesdrop on radio conversations between the coaches of the teams the Saints were playing.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already suspended Loomis for eight games, for failing to put an end to the Saints' so-called "bounty" system that then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had established and for lying about it. This week, Commissioner Goodell indicated that if the charges regarding the eavesdropping are true, the sanctions may come from a higher power:
"As I understand it, it's been given to federal authorities," Goodell said. "They are doing their work. We will wait and we'll see if there's any credible information that comes from that, and at that point in time, we'll take whatever steps are necessary, if necessary."
[sidebar title="NFL Character Issues" width="270" align="right"]Hamilton College economics professor Stephen Wu joins Bill Littlefield to discuss his new study, which shows that college players with off-field problems turn out to be bargains in the NFL draft. [/sidebar]Among those most earnestly defending Mickey Loomis is interim Saints Head Coach Joe Vitt, who has been suspended for six games in connection with the bounty program. Vitt maintains that the charges about an eavesdropping system are rubbish:
"This is ludicrous. And then to associate Mickey with that? It's irresponsible. It's a shame," said Vitt.
It may be a shame, but if the story about an eavesdropping system holds up, it will also be one more major headache for the Saints, and for a league which is being sued for damages by over one thousand of its former players, and for a commissioner who still has not disciplined the players who participated in the bounty program in New Orleans…a matter Commissioner Goodell addressed this week:
"We're in the final stages of working on the discipline that will involve the players," he said. "We hope to do that very soon, and put that behind us."
It's a hope NFL fans certainly share. At the end of a normal April, all the football talk would be about who'd drafted whom and how long it would take various college stars to become stalwart pros. This time around, such speculation has had to compete with stories of class action suits, suspensions being served, suspensions still anticipated, and the aforementioned out-of-bounds eavesdropping.
This segment aired on April 28, 2012.