Will Smith: Roger Goodell Made a Mistake, but I Still Respect Him

December 13, 2012 – 10:00 am by Brad Gagnon

The suspensions for all the Saints players originally punished in the bounty scandal have been vacated, but the story won’t likely die soon. Roger Goodell is still the commissioner and Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma will likely remain in this league for years to come.

Awkward? Smith is relieved that his suspension has been lifted, and he insists Goodell had the facts wrong, but he still says he respects the commish.

Will Smith joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss the bounty scandal with several months of hindsight, describing the payment program in place in New Orleans in fairly specific detail, who was involved, who was paid and how the commissioner will be received in New Orleans now.

On how this whole thing got started:

“I really don’t know. … It never was a pay-to-injure scheme or a bounty scheme, so I couldn’t really tell you.”

On the specifics of the payment program in place in New Orleans under Gregg Williams:

“It was something that goes on pretty much every football team, just to encourage guys to play harder and make plays — nothing that we did that essentially was, as they classified it, ‘detrimental.’ We showed them that, all along, and many players have come out and said the same thing, that was part of the team the past couple years. But they continue to believe that it was a pay to injure scheme.”

On what they were paid for:

“Making positive plays, and it wasn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. It was just … making positive, productive plays. And you were penalized for making stupid plays, like getting personal fouls and offside, stuff like that.”

On if players had to pay for making mistakes:

“You were essentially — as we would call it — you were fined. The scheme was built to not do dumb things and encourage guys to make plays and do positive things. … If you got a roughing the passer, if you got a personal foul of any sort, you were penalized. So that wasn’t the scheme. Obviously, if it was a pay-to-injure scheme, then there would be tons of penalties all over the place.”

On players rarely taking the money they earned from the pot:

“No one ever really accepted the money. It was just more of something that you can go through and you may have made the most money that particular week and it was, ‘I don’t want it. Just leave it in the pot.’ Most of the guys just left it, never took the money. And then we’d have a team function at the end of the year with whatever was left over.”

On if the coaches were aware:


On if Sean Payton was aware:

“I don’t know that.”

On if Gregg Williams was aware:

“Yeah, he’s the one who brought it to the New Orleans Saints.”

On Williams not wanting the players to injure anyone as part of the scheme:

“Never to injure, and he stated [that] in his testimony over and over and over and over.”

On not knowing they were doing anything wrong:

“I wasn’t aware, and I think most of the players probably weren’t aware that it was against NFL rules. But it was never done with the intent to ever hurt anyone, to ever injure anyone. It was always done as a positive thing.”

On when he last spoke to Payton:

“It’s been a long time. I stumbled upon him once or twice, but never really had a conversation with him, just said hi and bye. He’s not really allowed to talk to anyone that’s on the team right now, so I’d have to say almost a year.”

On if Roger Goodell robbed the Saints of a chance to get to the Super Bowl:

“We still have the group of guys that we had last year, so we — for whatever reason — this year, if that was the case, we weren’t able to overcome whatever obstacles … but that’s no excuse. We’re all professionals here, this is what we get paid to do. We weren’t able to get it done.”

On how Goodell will be received when he’s in New Orleans for the Super Bowl:

“I don’t think he’s the most popular guy in New Orleans, but at the end of the day he’s still the commissioner. … I don’t think the people of Louisiana will be too happy with him but we still respect him and understand what type of job he has. It’s definitely difficult. But in this case he truly made a mistake.”

On his belief that Goodell made his initial ruling with false information:

“I don’t know if he got bad information from whoever was working for him, but obviously whatever he was told was false.”

Listen to Will Smith on The Dan Patrick Show here

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