Saints GM Mickey Loomis speaks out about wiretapping allegations
POSTED: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 12:16pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 9:21pm
METAIRIE, La — Saints general manager Mickey Loomis met with reporters just days after an ESPN report accused him of eavesdropping on opposing teams. Below is the transcript from that conference.
“First, I want to thank my family, our fans, our players past and present, our coaches, our staff and many of my NFL colleagues and friends throughout the league for their overwhelming support during this time. I’ve received hundreds of texts, emails and voice messages during this time and I can tell you it’s been very, very appreciated. I particularly want to thank our ownership – Mr. and Mrs. Tom Benson, Rita (Benson LeBlanc) and Ryan (LeBlanc) for being so steadfast these last couple of months. Finally, I want to thank Sean Payton, who I believe is the best coach in the NFL and who has the most difficult job of any of us. He is missed and we anxiously await his return eight months from now. Regarding the bounty penalties, I thought Coach (Joe) Vitt perfectly stated where we’re at regarding this issue. The Commissioner (Roger Goodell) has spoken and we respect his decision. The penalties for us have been determined and it’s our job to move forward. Player safety is a paramount issue for the league and for the New Orleans Saints. This is important, I believe the by-product of this issue is that we’re going to be a better league and the Saints will be a better team for having faced this. Regarding the eavesdropping allegations, let me restate this – in my 29 years in the NFL, I have never listened to an opposing team’s communications. I have never asked for the capability to listen to an opposing team’s communications. I have never inquired as to the possibility of listening in on an opposing team’s communications. I have never been aware of any capability to listen in on an opposing team’s communications at the Superdome or at any NFL stadium. Finally, I recognize that the most important issue facing the New Orleans Saints is getting Drew Brees under contract. No one understands better than I how important Drew and Brittany have been to the City of New Orleans, our fans and the Saints organization. His contributions to our success have been invaluable. Unfortunately, I have the task of putting a value on it. But my goal and Drew’s goals are the same, and that is to get him a contract that he feels good about and gives our team the best opportunity to compete for a championship. It will get done. With that, I’d like to move on and discuss this year’s draft.”
Having said that you’re innocent of all this eavesdropping, how do you clear you name and is that important to you to do that beyond just saying it?
“That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer to that because, first of all, I don’t know who made the allegations. I’m angry about it. It’s not true. I have a clear conscience. That’s all I can say. The people that know me and know me the best have all come to my defense. They’ve stated to me they know it’s not true. Maybe that has to be good enough.”
The team has said it’s weighing its legal options. Are the Saints planning on pursuing legal action and could they end up suing ESPN?
“I don’t know that yet. Certainly we’re going to explore all of our options.”
Do you have any idea where these allegations may have come from?
“I might, but I wouldn’t accuse someone unless I was absolutely sure. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that same consideration from the reporter at ESPN.”
As someone who has always preferred a low profile, who wants to work behind the scenes and who doesn’t like to be on camera, how have these past two months been for you?
“You know I like being in the background. I like a low profile. I feel like in the NFL, it’s the players and coaches that deserve the credit and should be the people out front. I’m also not afraid that when things go bad, when things are difficult and we have adversity, I’m not afraid of standing up and taking the bullet so to speak. This has been a month of that or two months of that. It’s part of the job and I have big enough shoulders to withstand that.”
Sean Payton’s been gone now for a week and a half. How much is that affecting what you’re doing right now in the draft room?
“It’s a good question and one that I probably can’t answer very well. I think it’s affected me more personally than it has in terms of the decision making. We have our coaches involved in the decision making of our players. We have a great scouting staff that has continued to do their jobs well. We’re going to make good decisions in there. We know what Sean’s core beliefs are. We’ve been with him for six and a half years now so we understand what he would want. One of the reasons I think Sean and I have worked so well over the years is that we’re on the same wave length 99 percent of the time. I think we’ll come to the same decisions and the same conclusions that we would were he here.”
Do you disagree with any of the NFL’s findings?
“I’m really not willing to answer any questions regarding the specifics. The NFL made their findings. They made their ruling. There’s nothing I can do to change that. It doesn’t really matter if I agree or disagree. We have these penalties that we need to deal with and we are dealing with them and we will deal with them. I don’t think it serves any purpose to rehash what’s already been hashed.”
Do you know what the holdup is on the player penalties?
“I do not.”
With yours and Joe Vitt’s suspension coming up, do you approach the draft any differently than you have in years past?
“No, I wouldn’t say that it’s been any different. Obviously we’ve had a couple of different distractions here that have occurred that have taken up some time. But in terms of the work that we do, I don’t think that it’s been any different.”
How do the potential player penalties that could be coming down affect your draft decisions?
“That’s so speculative that we’re not putting any consideration into what may or may not happen. We just don’t know so we’re better off just drafting as we would if there were no penalties.”
Do you think the FBI investigation can help you?
“I welcome an investigation. That’s fine with me. I know it didn’t happen.”
Do you feel there’s an image problem for this team right now? If so, how do you repair it?
“I don’t know the answer to that. I would say this, one of the disappointing things for me is that our team and our organization have been painted with a pretty broad brush. We’re the evil empire right now is the sense that I get. Yet I know this, the integrity of our players and our staff and our coaches is as good as anyone in any sport at any time. I firmly believe that. I’ve seen it firsthand. I know what our players have meant to the community, the efforts they’ve put into our community over the last seven years and the things they do on an everyday basis. It’s disappointing to me that this brush that they’ve been painted with, it’s just incorrect.”
How frustrating is it that you’re at a stalemate in contract talks with Drew Brees?
“I don’t know that it’s frustrating. Contract negotiations can go quickly and they can go slowly. When you’ve done it as long as I have, you’ve had every part of the spectrum. I don’t let that get frustrating for me. I understand it. Joe (Vitt) said it the other day – Drew has earned the right to negotiate this contract and I respect that. It’s a personal issue for any player. That contract’s a personal issue. It’s more of a business issue for me. I have to balance those things here because really I consider Drew to be a good friend and not just the quarterback of our team. He and Brittany mean a lot to me personally and to Mr. and Mrs. Benson personally and to everyone in the city. I get that this is the most important contract that I’ve ever negotiated.”
Has anything that’s happened since the end of last season hardened Drew’s stance in contract negotiations?
“I don’t know that.”
What would be a good time frame for doing this contract before it starts getting tense?
“Tomorrow. Maybe an hour from now. That would be a good first round pick for us.”
Given all of what’s happened this offseason, do you think the team will use it as motivation for this upcoming season?
“Yes, and I don’t know that I would describe it exactly that way. I do think it gives us a focus with the penalties and Sean Payton’s absence. We all – players, coaches and staff – we all think so much of Sean that I know we don’t want to let him down. We want to perform to the best of our capabilities and make him proud. We all understand we’re going to operate under the core beliefs that he has instilled in this team and our team understands this as well. I do think that we can use this in a positive manner.”
What’s the likelihood that Drew Brees’ contract could get done by Sunday?
“I don’t know that. Probably not likely, but you never know.”
Has the team been contacted by the FBI or state police?
“I don’t know. I have not been.”
Is there any more urgency to get Drew Brees’ deal done with everything going on to at least bring some stability?
“I don’t think we’re unstable. Obviously we’ve had a lot of things happen, but our ownership is here, I’m here, our Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt is here, we have a number of coaches on our staff that have been here for a number of years. Yes, Sean’s missing and we miss him. But we’re not unstable. We’re not down. As Joe said, we’ve had 41 wins in the last three years. We’re not down. If we’re down, I’m looking to be down. We have a good team here and we have great leadership on our team. We have great players. One of the things I feel good about and it speaks to this instability that you’re referring to is that we’ve had Brodrick Bunkley, Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain that signed pretty much after this news has broken. They don’t see us as an unstable organization. They see us as a good team that they want to be a part of.”
Why do you think there wasn’t any problem in convincing players like Brodrick Bunkley, David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton to join the team despite the offseason issue?
“They’re smart enough to talk to the players on our team. They visited with our coaches and the management of our team and so you’d have to ask them that question, but it’s evidenced by them signing with us.”’’
You’ve done a good job of finding gems in the middle to late rounds of the draft the last six years. With only five picks in this draft, what are your expectations?
“First of all, that’s a credit to our college scouting staff much more so than me and it’s a credit to our coaches who have always been much more willing to go by what they see in terms of performance on the field, not just by how a player got here. Our coaches do a great job of developing players I think. Obviously we don’t have a first or second round pick, although I would say Mark Ingram is our first round pick this year. We just got him a little sooner than most teams got theirs and we have high expectations for him. We’re going to get some good players in this draft that will help us, not just this year, but in years to come.”
Did you push for or would you have liked to know what the potential players suspension issues would have been before the draft?
“I didn’t push for it and I really don’t think it’s relevant to how we draft. We’re going to draft the best players for us and I don’t want to be clouded by a short–term impact of a penalty and make a bad decision. I don’t want that. I don’t look at that as a negative. This is the commissioner’s decision. We respect him and the job that he has to do here. We’ll respect the decision. We support our players and we’ll see what happens.”
How do you handle the absence of Joe Vitt at the start of the regular season?
“We have a lot of good candidates on our staff, the ones who have been mentioned and some who haven’t and so I think we’re going to let this offseason unfold. We’re going to let most of our training camp unfold. I think that the right person will kind of reveal itself to me and Mr. Benson. We’ll make a good decision for those first eight games. We’re going to do it in a way that gives us the best chance to be successful weeks one through eight.”
How close did you guys get to hiring Bill Parcells?
“I don’t know that I would ever call it close. It’s just one of the options that were weighed. Sean and I and Mr. B (Benson) discussed it a lot. The discussion was do we stay internal or go external. If it’s external, because of Bill’s history with Sean (Payton), that was a pretty attractive initial thought. Bill took himself out of that. He would be a great asset for any of us or any team and his resume speaks for itself. I’m so impressed with him. It would have been a great decision for us, but ultimately, I felt and we all felt like Joe Vitt gave our team the best chance to win and move forward.”
Was he ever considered for a consulting position as opposed to a full-time one?
“No, I don’t get the feeling Bill’s a half in guy. He’s either all in or not in and look I respect that from him. He pretty much took himself out before we made the decision, but he would have been a great option for us. I probably can’t express correctly how much respect I have for him. It would have been a great learning experience for all of us had we gone that route.”
Who handles your duties when you have to serve a suspension?
“I think most of the work that I have is done by the time we get to that first regular season game. One thing is we have a great staff in Ryan Pace, Rick Reiprish, Khai Harley, guys that are experienced and have been with me for a long period of time. They know exactly how I think and so I have a lot of confidence that they can absorb the duties. They’ll make good decisions and I will not second-guess any decision they make. They’ll help our coaching staff and they’ll perform great.”
Do you think there is any chance the second round pick from next year could be restored if there are no more issues within the organization?
“I hope so. I’m going to put that task on Mr. Benson though (laughter).”
Are you under the same restrictions as Coach Payton in regards to contact with NFL employees during your pending suspension?
“I believe I am although I haven’t delved into that. I believe I’m going to be. I’m not going to be able to have contact. That’s the rules. We’re going to respect the rules.”
Will you have Ray Anderson’s number on your speed dial?
“I will. Actually, one of the things I’ve said to the league and I’m sincere about it is I would love to take all or part of my time under the suspension and work under the league office and develop some best practices to this issue and player safety. I’m more than happy and I think I would have some valuable contributions in that regard.”
What is the exclusive franchise tag that Drew Brees is currently working under?
“It’s 16 million and change.”
Did that figure change last week?
“It did. It went up roughly 2 million dollars.”
Did you get that two million in cap room through the restructuring of some contracts?
Did ESPN contact you for the Outside the Lines story and did you respond?
“I received a voicemail on my mobile phone an hour and a half before they broke the story and the voice mail just said please call me regarding the story. I gave the information to Greg Bensel and he called.”
Given Coach (Steve) Spagnuolo’s differing philosophy, do you think that there might be some more desire to draft defensively?
“That’s hard to say because we’re all the way down in the third round. We don’t know who’s going to be available. We’ve got a group of players that we think might be available in that area. I will say this, about two thirds of those are defensive players, but that’s just the way it fell as opposed to anything conscious we were doing, offense vs. defense.”
Why would you not make your interim coach someone who isn’t facing a suspension?
“I think we’ve stated previously that Joe Vitt’s been here for the last six and a half years. He’s been with Sean (Payton) for a number of years before that, so he was the first hire that Sean made on his staff. He was the guy that filled in for Sean when he got hurt last season and handled those duties. It was a natural decision for us through this period that Joe be the guy. I think that if you listened to his press conference two days ago, I think it’s really evident why we chose him.”
Do you have any message for the fans?
“Yes, it was part of my opening statement that the support that myself, Sean, Joe Vitt, the organization have received from our fans has been overwhelmingly strong and we don’t take that for granted. We appreciate that. We know they (fans) have questions. They want Drew (Brees) signed and to have these other things behind us. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to put the best possible team on the field that we can.”