Friday, 15 June 2012 05:28

Saints' players and coaches to meet with NFLPA, Goodell over weekend

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paytonThe NFL Players Association has requested that certain current and former

Saints coaches, executives and players, including suspended head coach Sean

Payton, sources with knowledge of the situation said on Tuesday per Steve

Wyche of


The hearing for the four suspended players in the pay-to-injure scheme will be

heard by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.


The NFLPA sent a notice to the NFL requesting that Saints coach Sean Payton,

Saints GM Mickey Loomis, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and

assistant head coach Joe Vitt join the suspended players at the hearing.


The request is a means for the union to try to gather evidence used against the

players. It is not known if any of those asked could be compelled to attend or speak

at the appeals hearing.


The players have already lost two grievance hearings challenging Goodell's

jurisdiction to suspend players in connection with the bounty program.


The players will not wear this new T-shirt: Bounty Hunters. This Year

We'll Do It for Free."


On Friday, the NFLPA and the individual players -- Jon Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita

and Anthony Hargrove -- will know more about the evidence that the NFL plans to use

in the appeals hearing on Monday regarding the players' involvement in the bounty

scandal. The players and the NFLPA want to see the evidence that the league has

refused to make public.


Hopefully, someone will see fit to ensure that the evidence makes its way into the

hands of the media.


And before anyone claims that it is none of the media's business, the NFL has on

multiple occasions made it the media's business, using the media as the tool for

communicating to the fans information that the league wanted to be disseminated.

The time has come for the media, and thus the fans, to know the full story whatever

it may be.


Curtis Lofton makes impact with Saints

Curtis Lofton, taking his first steps as the Saints middle linebacker and defensive

signal-caller, has been deciphering the defensive terminology new defensive coordinator

Steve Spagnuolo has installed.


He looks like he'll make an immediate impact on the field. The 6-foot, 241-pounder

joined the Saints as a free agent after playing four years in Atlanta. He wants a

Super Bowl ring and he figured he could win one in New Orleans despite the Bountygate



"Curtis has been everything we thought he would be and more," judged Joe Vitt,

assistant head coach and linebackers coach. "He continues to get better and is

mastering the system. He has some natural leadership qualities and he wants to win.

He has been great."


Lofton acknowledges that challenges will arise while playing in a new defense with

a new team, but recognizes the improvement he has made during the offseason workouts.


He was brought in to replace Jonathan Vilma, who was missing games because of knee

surgery, and he was slowing down. Also, the NFL suspended him for a season because of

his involvement in Bountygate. "I've been doing this for four years, but am still learning

and Vilma has been helping me along the way," said Lofton. "I'll make a good transition.

All the linebackers help each other and are learning to play all three linebacker positions."


If Lofton has a weakness, it's defending receivers, but he can tackle with the efficiency of a

sniper. He's five years younger and made 100 more tackles than Vilma last season.


"I have grown a lot as a player in this system," said the Kingfisher, Okla., native.

"I will continue to improve every day."


"Coach Spags puts a lot of decision-making on the player in the course of practice and

in the course of a game," said Vitt. "Lofton has great communication skills. As you watch

him practice, he is calling audibles, and getting (the team) in better defenses every day."


Lofton hopes he can take what he studies and perform the same duties during the season

and beyond. He hopes the lessons learned as a player will help him as a coach on the

high school level once his playing days are over.


"I want to coach on the high school level when I finish playing," said the linebacker.

"I want to stay on that level mainly because I want to be a family man and have kids.

I want to be able to help them out and coach them." He will make millions as a player

and will be able to coach on that level without financial worries.


Lofton led his high school to the state championship semifinals in 2004 and was an

all-state selection.


"To me, that is where the game is purest," said Lofton. "Everyone loves it and

everyone loves playing."


Lofton likes New Orleans better than Atlanta. "The fans love their team here," said Lofton.

"It wasn't always like that in Atlanta."


He said you can get anywhere in the city in 15 minutes. "I've been arriving 30 minutes early

for reservations because I'm used to Atlanta."

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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