Sean Payton won't be on the sideline next season. (Bill Huber / Associated…)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't have sent a clearer two-pronged message on Wednesday with his harsh but justified treatment of the New Orleans Saints and Coach Sean Payton.
The bottom line: The NFL is going to come down hard when it learns that players are trying to injure other players, and the league is going to maximize that punishment if you're caught and then lie about it, as Payton and the Saints did.
There will be more penalties coming as the league's investigation digs down to the individual player level. They won't be as severe as the year's suspension without pay that Payton received, but all indications are that there is more punishment to follow.
One of Goodell's signature accomplishments came last summer as he helped negotiate an end to the NFL lockout and ensured long-term labor peace with the subsequent 10-year deal with players. That may be his crowning achievement.
But this ruling may be what actually defines the nature of Goodell's term. He has always shown he's been the law-and-order commissioner, with his suspension of Michael Vick and punishment of the New England Patriots in the "Spygate" scandal.
Wednesday's action was extremely decisive. Sure, he had to punish the Saints, but not all commissioners would have come down as hard as he did.
Goodell recognized the potential problems with allowing the bounty system to survive in any fashion ... and the potential legal issues that could arise if such behavior weren't clearly branded as wrong and forbidden.
Wednesday was an enormous news day for the NFL, with the Tim Tebow-to-the-Jets saga playing out throughout the day relegated to backup status to the Sean Payton-Saints developments. On any other day, Tebow would have dominated all NFL news.
But Wednesday was Goodell's day. He made a ruling that was consistent with the way he has operated and sent that message clearly to Payton, the Saints and the rest of the league.
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