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Roger Goodell stands by Saints’ suspensions: “We were lied to”

Super Bowl XLVI

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks on the field prior to Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is confident that his unprecedented punishments in the Saints’ bounty scandal, including an indefinite suspension of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and a yearlong suspension of head coach Sean Payton, were warranted given the facts of the case.

“I don’t think you can be too hard on people that put at risk our players’ health and safety,” Goodell said on NFL Network. “That is a critical issue for us going forward and has been in our past.”

Goodell said there’s no doubt in his mind that the Saints lied to the league office when the bounty investigation began.

“Clearly, we were lied to,” Goodell said. “We investigated this back in 2010, we were told it was not happening, it continued for another two years until we got credible evidence late in the 2011 season and we were able to identify significant information that verified from multiple sources that this was going on for a three-year period.”

Goodell said he’s disappointed in players who took part in the bounty program and will continue to consider player discipline.

“We have a serious violation of an existing rule that threatens the health and welfare of our players,” Goodell said. “In addition, this went on for three years and it was investigated, we were misled, and there were denials throughout that period. Meanwhile, there continued to be risk to our players and to the integrity of our game. So it calls for a very significant and clear message.”

It’s a message that Williams and Payton heard loud and clear today.