Goodell faces Louisiana backlash

New Orleans Saints fans are no longer as cheerful as they were here, after quarterback Drew Brees...

New Orleans Saints fans are no longer as cheerful as they were here, after quarterback Drew Brees shattered the NFL's single season passing record back in December. Bounty-gate suspensions have them in a foul mood. (REUTERS)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

Commissioner Roger Goodell met Monday with the National Football League Players’ Association to discuss punishment for defensive players who received payments in New Orlean’s pay-for-pain bounty system.

This is a unique move considering it is the league office, not the players’ association, that hands down suspensions, fines and player discipline.

But, then, this is a unique situation.

Players involved in the bounty scheme already have been informed by the NFLPA that they should get legal representation.

It’s also unique because Goodell can’t simply suspend the entire Saints’ defence. Well, he could, but gutting the team hurts fans, sponsors might sue, it would be a marketing disaster and it would ultimately impact the entire league. The point is to punish the guilty — not everyone associated with the guilty.

The league is also facing a massive local backlash in Louisiana, although it has been slow to mushroom. Goodell is expected to hear the appeals this week filed by head coach Sean Payton, assistant Joe Vitt, and GM Mickey Loomis. The team is also appealing its loss of draft picks and a $500,000 fine. Many Saints’ fans see their club as a scapegoat for a league-wide culture that has condoned head-hunting on gameday but pays lip service to discouraging it the rest of the week.

So, at a weekend New Orleans concert, Jimmy Buffett showed up with “Free Sean Payton” T-shirts. The head coach got cheers when he sat in to tap the drums. NHL president Clarence Campbell once started a riot in Montreal by suspending Rocket Richard. Saints fans aren’t any more enchanted about what Goodell has planned.

“There’s a groundswell of anger in New Orleans, from what I can tell,” ESPN’s Peter King said. “Where it’ll lead, I don’t know. But I know New Orleans. It’s not going away, regardless of how Goodell rules in the four appeals he must consider ... Remember the booing Goodell got at the NFL Draft last year? That could sound charitable compared to the reception he could hear in New Orleans during Super Bowl week.”

The Super Bowl returns to the Superdome for the first time in 11 years next season. How hard Goodell comes down on New Orleans’ bounty hunters will have a huge impact on whether the Saints will be there.

WIDE LOAD

It’s not so much whether tackle Bryant McKinnie shows up to protect Joe Flacco’s blind side at training camp. It’s how much of him shows up.

Head coach John Harbaugh said McKinnie is in just as good a condition as he was last year. That isn’t saying much for a guy who is a Twinkie shy of qualifying for The Biggest Loser. McKinnie’s weight ballooned to 400 pounds before he was cut by the Vikings. He finished the season in Baltimore at about 360 pounds with a suggestion from the Ravens that he boycott the dessert tray.

Regardless how he shows up, the Ravens are committed, having already paid him his roster bonus of $500,000 — or just about enough for McKinnie to buy his personal Dunkin’ Donut franchise.

WHAT A PILL-OCK

Former NFL quarterback, Ryan Leaf, was arrested Monday on burglary charges.

At least he knew his way around the jailhouse, considering he had just posted bail Friday to spring himself on earlier charges of illegal possession of prescription pain killers and burglary.

Apparently he’s just about as good a thief as he was an NFL quarterback. Anyway, the new charges stem from a burglary Leaf allegedly committed in Great Falls, Montana on Saturday.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 draft, Leaf has a history of being hooked on prescripton painkillers and was already on probation from a 2010 felony conviction on a drug count.

He claimed last year he had turned his life around and was on the road to beating his addiction.

Guess that road proved to be a cul-de-sac.

A police search of Leaf’s home uncovered oxycodone pills, and evidence he had burgled homes to gain access to pills.

QUICK HITS

Philly is in full-panic mode after left tackle Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles and faces a full season of rehab. They’re trying to trade for an upgrade on backup King Dunlap ... Jets may use Tim Tebow on special teams. Rex Ryan believes he is a good enough football player to block on punts and get down field in coverage. Putting Tebow on the field gives the Jets another option with his running and passing ability. The Vikings used the tactic in 2009 with Tarvaris Jackson ... Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, after three seasons with the Saints, has signed with the Rams — the club’s eighth free agent signing this off-season ... Ahmad Bradshaw will miss the Giants off-season workouts due to the stress fracture in his foot.

LION BUSTED FOR POT, AGAIN

Lions running back Mikel Leshoure was arraigned Monday (or, he would’ve been if he’d bother to show up) after getting busted for the second time in the past two months for marijuana possession.

On Feb. 18, Leshoure was cited in a traffic stop for possession of marijuana and paid a fine.

Now he’s facing reprimand for a March 12 incident. He was a passenger in a car that was pulled over and, according to police, was seen trying to eat marijuana to avoid being charged.

After staying absent Monday, he could be in contempt of court. Leshoure has had a bad year, missing all of last season with a torn Achilles and, considering his childhood, it isn’t surprising he’s run into off-field problems.

Leshoure was born in prison while his mother was serving a sentence for a drug conviction. His father also spent time in prison for selling drugs. Proof, unfortunately, that when the kitchen table condiments include milk, sugar and daddy’s dime bag chances are a kid doesn’t stand a chance.

The Lions say they’re investigating. A second-round draft pick last year, his career is in danger of imploding before he ever sees an NFL field on gameday.


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