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Goodell comes down hard on the Saints

Just like that, Drew Brees became even more important to the New Orleans Saints, if that were at all possible.

In terms of the severity of the punishment, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s wrath can be likened to an Old Testament plague, and the New Orleans Saints are left picking up the pieces.

Goodell’s message can be summed up as follows: Repent, sinners — and stop tarnishing the legacy of the league. Having uncovered evidence that the Saints had a bounty system that sought to pay players “bonuses” if they knocked star players for the opposing teams, Goodell showed no mercy.

Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended from the league indefinitely. GM Mickey Loomis has been banned from eight Saints games for the 2012-13 season. Linebackers coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games.

Oh yeah, and the organization was fined $500,000 and lost two second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts.

Too harsh? Maybe, but it’s certainly not surprising coming from a commissioner that enacted rules that punish a player for delivering too hard a hit. The effect of Goodell’s vision can be seen all the way to the officiating level, where NFL defensive backs are flagged if they so much as sneeze in the general vicinity of a wide receiver.

Player suspensions are likely to follow. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to anyone that knocked then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the NFC Championship Game in 2009. He will almost certainly be suspended, and several of his teammates are also likely to miss some games.

In the midst of all of this, Brees is now more key to the Saints’ future than ever. The effects of losing your head coach and at least some of your defense (which was mediocre at-best last season) will make the short-term quite painful for the Who Dat Nation.

Recently, the Saints opted to give Brees the franchise tag, a move that the star signal-caller wasn’t too pleased with. The franchise tag, which prevents a player set to be an unrestricted free agent from signing with another team, keeps Brees from maximizing his potential value.

Brees and the Saints have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. If they can’t, Brees must either sign the franchise deal or hold out.

As the face of the team, a top-five quarterback and someone that supposedly has no skeletons in his closet, it is imperative that the Saints and Brees work something out to keep him in New Orleans. The fan base is hurting, and Brees is the guy that can help them see this tough road through.

As good as Brees is, it’s difficult to justify the Saints trying to pinch pennies when it comes to giving their quarterback a long-term contract. That kind of security is likely the main thing Brees is looking for, and he’s one of the few players you can justify opening up the checkbook for.

That’s especially true with everything else that’s happened. Hopefully for Saints fans, the front office feels the same way.


Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.