The logo of Carolina’s NFL team is a black-and-blue Panther.
According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it is more like a bullseye.
At least that allegedly was the case when the New Orleans Saints met the rival Panthers the past few seasons.
Welcome to the latest chapter of “As Bountygate Turns,” a seemingly never-ending saga that, frankly, has a lot of fans outside of New Orleans muttering: “Just tell us when it’s over.”
It certainly is a long way from being over for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive lineman Will Smith, whose previous suspensions were upheld by Goodell on Tuesday. As a result, Vilma will continue to be banned for the entire season while Smith will sit out four games.
Goodell did whittle down the punishment of a couple of other players.
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove saw his suspension whittled down from eight to seven games. Having already sat out five contests, Hargrove, a free agent, must miss another two once he signs with another team.
Meanwhile, linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, had his suspension chopped down from three games to one.
In the process, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Goodell’s memo to all 32 teams explaining his suspension-related decisions was the account of details related to a 2010 Saints-Panthers contest in which several Carolina players supposedly were targeted as part of Bountygate.
Wrote Goodell: “In that game, three Carolina players were seriously injured: Running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton, who were literally carted off the field with a head/neck and ankle injury, respectively, and quarterback Matt Moore, who was later placed on injured reserve, unable to return for the remainder of the season, with a torn labrum. These all satisfied (defensive coordinator Gregg) Williams’ definition of cart-offs: ‘Big hits that resulted in an opposing player leaving the game due to the hit.”
According to various reports, Goodell, in a previous memo, indicated that the Saints had put a bounty on then-rookie Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last year.
You can bet that, behind closed doors, Panhers officials are fuming about all of this.
Williams, of course, has been suspended indefinitely by the league for his role in Bountygate.
Goodell’s decision on Tuesday came about four weeks after an appeal panel created by the NFL’s labor agreement made the original suspensions moot on technical grounds during Week 1 of the regular season, informing Goodell that he needed to clarify the reasons for the bans.
In his memo, Goodell attempted to do exactly that.
“In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story,” Goodell wrote. “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”
To no one’s surprise, the NFLPA did not agree with Goodell’s decision.
“For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever,” the said union in a written statement. “The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake.”
The bottom line here, folks: From appeals to law suits, the finish line to this soap opera seems a long way away.
Through it all, the Panthers must feel like victims. And you can understand why.
With Cedric Benson now expected to be out eight weeks with a foot injury, the Packer running back duties now fall to James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine ... Aaron Rodgers went on the radio in Wisconsin on Tuesday and said “I’m not playing my best football.” No kidding. But don’t put the blame just on the defending MVP. A porous offensive line has allowed 21 sacks and his receivers have made at least three or four drops per game ... Throw out his 141-yard performance against the Chargers, and Titans running back Chris Johnson is averaging 1.4 yards per carry. Keeping that in mind, maybe he should look in the mirror when he claims the Titans are not “good” at present. “I don’t believe we’re close right now,” Johnson told TitansInsider.com. “You look at the games and how we’re playing, we don’t look like a good team. I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re close.”
MATTHEWS OUTRAGED OVER CUSHING INJURY
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing has been lost for the season due to a serious knee injury.
And Green Bay’s Clay Matthews is pissed about it.
Having watched the controversial chop block from Jets guard Matt Slauson that turned Cushing’s knee to mush on Monday night, Matthews ripped the league for not punishing the technique that took out his former USC teammate. In Matthews’ mind, defenceless defenders should be protected just like quarterbacks and defenceless receivers.
“If the NFL really wants to increase player safety, start protecting players on BOTH sides of the ball,” tweeted Matthews, who added: “Where is the NFL’s protection on blocks below the waist like that on Cushing. Double standard!”
With Cushing having torn the ACL in his left knee, the 5-0 Texans are now without their top tackler.
“A big blow for our team,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Tuesday. “We have to have guys pick it up around him and we’ve got to find a way to move forward.
“We’re all just disappointed for him. It’s a tough day for him.”
WILLIAMS WANTS REDEPEMPTION
Kyle Williams has put his goat horns away.
And now he wants revenge.
The San Francisco 49ers kick returner actually received death threats after his two costly fumbles against the New York Giants in January’s NFC championship game, Now he has a chance for redemption when the 49ers once again host the Giants, this time on Sunday in San Francisco.
“After what happened last year, I definitely want to get back at these guys,” Williams told the Bay Area News Group.
The Giants won that game, 20-17 in overtime, after recovering the second of Williams’ flubs. They would go on to win the Super Bowl by upsetting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
“We look at it as if they had something we should have had,” Williams told the Sacramento Bee.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has maintained faith in Williams as a kick returner, keeping him second on the depth chart behind the often-injured Ted Ginn.
CUNDIFF GETS KICKED OFF
Kicker Billy Cundiff has been given the boot.
Known for a number of seasons as one of the most consistent placekickers in the game, Cundiff’s now-famous wide-left shank in the final seconds of the AFC title game in New England in January cost his Baltimore Ravens a shot at a spot in the Super Bowl. He subsequently was cut loose by the Ravens in training camp in favour of rookie Justin Tucker.
Immediately inked by the Washington Redskins, he had been one of the most inconsistent kickers in the league thus far, connecting on just seven of 12 field goals. Two of his misses came from within 40 yards including a 31-yard shank in Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
On Tuesday, the Redskins finally had enough, releasing Cundiff and signing free agent Kal Forbath to replace him. Forbath hit on all five of his field goal attempts in pre-season with Tampa Bay before being released by the Bucs.
At least Forbath landed on his feet in Washington, That’s more than can be said for Cundiff, whose career has spiralled out of control after Wide Left.
T.O. APPEALS TO JETS
Terrell Owens has taken to Twitter in his quest to land a job,
But his efforts via the Twittersphere appear to be all for naught.
While the Jets were dropping a 23-17 decision to the Houston Texans on Monday night, T.O. was busy pimping his services to Rex Ryan and Co.
“Hey JETS!!! I’m available! I’m ready, willing & able! Call my agent@JordanWoy & let’s make it happen,” Owens tweeted.
On a conference call Tuesday, Ryan said he’ll “never say never” concerning a veteran like Owens, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress. But there are plenty of hints that suggest otherwise.
Just last week, Ryan indicated that the Jets were more interested in replacing injured wideout Santonio Holmes with youth, not greybeards. Along those same lines, the New York Daily News, citing sources, reported Tuesday that the Jets were not interested in T.O.
Ryan, meanwhile, remains stubborn in his support of quarterback Mark Sanchez, citing that the USC product will remain New York’s starting quarterback. That stance is not shared by everyone in New York, where fan polls on radio and in the newspapers continue to show that the majority of fans want to see the keys to the Jets offence handed over to Tim Tebow.