Sean Payton Goes Off On NFL, Calls Bountygate A 'Sham'
By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- New Orleans and New England may not have too much in common. Yet when it comes to being subjected to overreaching NFL investigations with excessive penalties issued by Roger Goodell, the football locales are basically two peas in a pod.
That's something that will apparently never changed, based on Sean Payton's recent remarks. The head coach was asked about the budding minor controversy that was kick-started by James Harrison's claim that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin handed him an envelope after delivering a violent hit on Mohamed Massaquoi.
"If people are waiting for the league to investigate that, they shouldn't hold their breath," Payton said on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore, as transcribed by Luke Johnson of the New Orleans Advocate. "I think what took place with us back in 2011 in so many ways was a sham, and yet there wasn't a lot we could do with it. The players were vindicated, but from a league or coaching standpoint, there is no union, there is no representation."
Payton was of course referring to the "Bountygate" investigation, which led to him being suspended for a full season. That was despite former commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacating all suspensions to players that had been issued by Roger Goodell. Tagliabue didn't determine that the facts of the investigation were wrong, but he determined that Goodell had overstepped his abilities as a commissioner by punishing the players.
The punishment for coaches stuck, though, and that's something Payton says he'll never get over.
"I would be shocked [if the NFL investigated Harrison's claims]," Payton said. "That'll be something that's tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue. They'll look into it briefly. Listen, don't get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary, and honestly it was something that I'll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. That's just the truth."
Payton also referenced multiple media members who have apologized to him after the Bountygate situation played out, "because they ate the early cheese on that topic. They were fed handfuls of it by the league office."
Bill Belichick and the Patriots -- who became the first team to ever have a first-round pick stripped due to sideline filming from improper locations, and who faced record punishments and a four-game suspension to their starting quarterback over deflation allegations that were never proven -- can certainly relate. Perhaps Payton and Belichick can get together and write a book one day. It'll certainly sell a lot of copies in New England and New Orleans, at least.
As a separate issue, Payton also weighed in on the NFL getting rid of replay review on pass interference calls and non-calls. Considering that one of the worst missed pass interference penalties in the history of football cost his team a trip to Super Bowl LIII, his opinion carries a bit of weight on the matter.
"I think the theory behind what the league voted on certainly had a chance to be successful. But quite honestly we weren't ready [in Al Riveron's replay review room] in New York to handle it," Payton said, according to ESPN. "And I know that sounds critical, but that's just a fact. The consistency and the ability to take in the calls and at least come up with a fairly level basis of what we're gonna interpret that call on. And if we're not ready there, then we shouldn't have it. And I think that's the feeling that all of us have right now, including myself."
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