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A U.S. District Court Judge has dismissed Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against league commissioner Roger Goodell.
The players union also declared victory on Tuesday afternoon.
Peter Ginsberg continued the war of words on behalf of Jonathan Vilma, his client, in the wake of Paul Tagliabue's decision to vacate punishment for his client.
Despite having his suspension vacated, the Saints linebacker will move forward with his personal defamation suit against the NFL commissioner.
Fujita was right: he did nothing wrong.
The appeal hearing for the four suspended players in the Saints bounty case reversed the punishments handed out by the league.
According to a report, an Oct. 30 hearing on appeals in the Saints' bounty cases has been postponed due to a looming hurricane and controversy over former NFL commissioner Paul Tagiabue hearing the appeals.
The NFLPA says that Paul Tagliabue also has a conflict of interest in hearing the appeal of four players suspended in the wake of the bounty case.
Jonathan Vilma admitted Monday that the New Orleans Saints did have a pay-for-performance system, though he said that no one ever got paid for causing an injury.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recused himself from hearing the appeals of four players suspended as part of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he will be allowed to play Sunday, but fans wonder if he'll actually be ready to go.
Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he will be allowed to play in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.
Jonathan Vilma and the rest of the suspended Saints and former Saints appealed the recently reissued suspensions handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.
The former New Orleans Saint questions the Commissioner's "absolute power" and the logic behind his remaining one-game suspension.
The NFLPA vows to look into ways to once again appeal suspensions against New Orleans Saints players for the bounty scandal, while Roger Goodell stands behind his decision to suspend them.
The Saints linebacker will not play this year.
The NFL will reportedly re-issue suspensions for four players named in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
The players were in New York for face-to-face meetings with Goodell and other NFL officials to discuss the suspensions and fines that were recently lifted by an appeals panel. The two players were at the NFL offices for roughly three hours, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
Hargrove, who was released by the Green Bay Packers during training camp, was originally suspended eight games for his role in the bounty scandal while Smith was suspended four games. Scott Fujita was originally expected to be at Tuesday's meeting, but he was unable to attend because he is undergoing treatment for a knee injury.
Tuesday's meeting comes one day after Jonathan Vilma, the fourth player suspended in the bounty scandal, met with Goodell and other officials.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita's scheduled meeting Tuesday with NFL officials on his involvement with the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal has been cancelled, but is likely to be rescheduled, according to Jason La Cantora of CBSSports.com. La Cantora tweeted the news Tuesday morning.
The meeting, which was to discuss Fujita's suspension, which had been temporarily overturned, was going to take place in New York City. But Fujita couldn't make the trip as he continues to rehab a knee injury.
Another option to meet was considered. Another tweet from La Canfora:
The sides were going back and forth over video conferencing- Fujita was not headed to NY- and NFL cancelled that this AM...
Fujita's three-game suspension for involvement in the Saints' bounty program was lifted for Week 1, but Fujita didn't play because of his injury. He made his season debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and made two tackles.
In a sworn affidavit that implicated Jonathan Vilma in the Saints bounty scandal, Gregg Williams also stated that a pay-for-perfomance program was already in place in New Orleans before he became a coach for the Saints in 2009.
According to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Williams indicated that he altered and revamped an extant pay-for-performance program and that his system never paid players for injuring specific opponents or for hits that resulted in penalties. The former Saints defensive coordinator stated that no illegal hits were rewarded, even if they were mistakenly called by referees. He also testified in the document that specific players were never targeted. Williams signed the affidavit for the NFL as the league prepared for meetings with the four players initially suspended for the bounty scandal.
Williams also testified in the statement that Vilma put a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre. The affidavit alleges that Vilma issued the bounty at a team meeting before the NFC Championship game against the Vikings. It also states that the linebacker "endorsed the program" that Williams revamped in 2009. Vilma has vehemently denied the allegations, and said Williams was bullied by Commissioner Roger Goodell into signing the document.
Vilma met with the league for three hours on Monday, when the affidavit was presented to him. Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita are scheduled to meet with the NFL on Tuesday. La Canfora also reported that Fujita is not mentioned anywhere in the affidavit.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma tweeted Monday night that his former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, was "bullied" by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell into signing an affidavit which swore that Vilma offered a bounty. In a meeting earlier on Monday, Goodell presented Vilma with the sworn statement, which alleged that the veteran linebacker put a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre.
Vilma took to Twitter to call into question the veracity of the Williams affidavit, imploring his followers to "do the math" and compare his nine sworn affidavits which directly conflict with the one in question. He then fired off the tweet saying Williams was bullied into signing it on Friday:
You obviously want me to be guilty if you cant see that gregg was bullied to sign the affidavit. He signed 3days ago! #weakattempt— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 18, 2012
Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, also came out in the media and claimed the allegations by Williams were false:
"What Gregg Williams said in his most recent affidavit is the same falsity he has previously provided," Ginsberg said.
"I don't know what Gregg Williams' motives are, but I do know that any suggestion by Williams that Jonathan put up $10,000 as an incentive for his teammates to injure another player is absolutely false."
A representative of Williams told the Associated Press that the defensive coordinator did not want to speak to the media.
The NFL gave Jonathan Vilma a sworn affidavit from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams stating that the linebacker offered $10,000 to any teammate who managed to knock Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC title game.
Vilma met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for several hours on Monday and afterward sounded uncertain about the future of his season. Vilma is one of four players who had their suspensions tossed out by an appeals board. The other players -- Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- are scheduled to meet with Goodell on Tuesday, and from there Goodell will decide whether or not to modify his original punishments.
Vilma was originally suspended for the entire 2012 season. Hargrove was suspended for eight games, Smith for four and Fujita for three.
Many saw the decision of the CBA Appeals Panel in the case of the four players suspended for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty system as a blow to the authority of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In a statement released on Thursday, the NFL clarified the panel's decision with respect to Goodell's authority.
The panel's decision rests on the little matter of undisclosed compensation that the players were said to have received as part of the Saints' bounty program. The role of the commissioner in handed down discipline for conduct was untouched by the ruling. It also reaffirmed that the league's case against the players still stood.
Here is the statement from the NFL:
In light of some confusion surrounding the ruling of the CBA Appeals Panel, it is important to understand what the panel did and did not rule. The panel did not overturn the suspensions and did not say Commissioner Goodell overstepped his authority.
The panel's decision asks no more than that the commissioner clarify his earlier rulings to ensure -- and to clearly state -- that no part of the prior ruling was attributable to matters within Professor Burbank's authority (salary cap violations). It does not require the commissioner to take additional evidence or to "reweigh" the evidence currently in the record. The panel did not take issue with any findings that were made in the course of the investigation, did not exonerate anyone involved, and did not say that the commissioner "overstepped his authority."
The panel made clear that the commissioner had full authority to impose discipline on the players so long as the discipline was attributable to conduct detrimental to the league, rather than "undisclosed compensation." The panel asked only that he clarify that he was not relying on the "undisclosed" nature of the financial incentives in imposing the discipline. In the meantime, the panel put the suspensions on hold.
Goodell will meet with the four suspended players prior to walking back through the disciplinary process. Goodell could re-issue the same suspensions for those four players under the conduct banner, and the league's statement certainly makes it clear that Goodell reserves that right. Many hope to see some compromise in the wake of the panel's decision last week, a way to save face and move on from an ugly chapter in the league's history.
Four players were implicated in the investigation conducted by the NFL: Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. Only Smith and Vilma remain with the team, but all four are going to take part in the sit-down with Goodell.
According to NFL.com, both sides are very open to the meeting.
"We have accepted Commissioner Goodell's invitation to meet with him to share information and hopefully resolve this matter appropriately," Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said Tuesday.
Vilma is the central figure in this situation, with the middle linebacker in the process of suing Goodell for defamation.
Vilma said he is hoping the league will take this meeting with an open mind, with the commissioner making the decision on his fate afterward. The NFL released a statement, also on Tuesday afternoon, to explain its expectations.
"Each player suspended in the Saints' bounty matter has declined multiple opportunities to meet with league representatives to present information," the league said. "We have reminded each of those players that we remain willing to meet with them prior to the commissioner making the determination called for by the CBA Appeals Panel. We intend to conduct any such meetings that are scheduled per our normal process under the CBA."
Documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon was interviewed by XX Sports Radio in San Diego on Tuesday. Pamphilon released audio of suspended New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, where Williams is heard in a pregame meeting telling players to injure San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore during a playoff game last January. During the interview, he stated that he was happy to see that the appeals board overturned the suspension of the Saints players.
I was ecstatic. I mean, do I believe that there was a system in place? How could I not? Because I was and I heard this man calling for injuries rather than just hard hits. And that was shocking. But the fact is I likened it at the time to sexual harassment and that man was in charge. He had what was called an F-you clause in his contract, which stipulated he had complete autonomy over what he was doing. So I felt sorry for those guys.
Pamphilon was also questioned about his love for the game of football. He says that what he is trying to do is help make the game safer than it already is.
I'm not trying to destroy football, I'm trying to make it as safe as possible so when I watch it, I don't feel like I'm watching human cockfighting. It's a fine line. I think football is the best game there is, by far.
Ed Werder reports that Vilma wants to meet with the commissioner despite walking out of an earlier appeals meeting at which Goodell was present. Although Vilma is reinstated, Goodell is still allowed to hand out a punishment based on guidelines set in a ruling that overturned the initial suspensions.
Vilma lawyer: "We hope the Commissioner keeps an open mind and doesn't feel restricted by his previous and clearly erroneous conclusions.''— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) September 11, 2012
Over the course of the bounty case, Vilma and Goodell have gotten to know each other a little bit by proxy. First, Goodell suspended Vilma for the 2012 season, then Vilma not only appealed the suspension, but also sued Goodell on 11 counts of defamation. The NFL demanded Vilma drop the suit, then reportedly offered to cut Vilma's suspension in half should he drop the lawsuit, and now, after the players' appeal was successful, Vilma's suspension is no more for the time being, although he's on the physically unable to play list.
The New Orleans Saints placed linebacker Jonathan Vilma on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Monday, making him ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the season.
Vilma had originally been suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the entire 2012 season, before an appeals panel overturned the suspensions levied by Goodell. Consequently, Vilma was eligible to play immediately in Week 1, but the Saints placed him on the exempt list on Saturday.
Vilma has undergone multiple knee surgeries since November 2011, and isn't fully healthy yet. Vilma doesn't currently have a timeframe for return, but since he is on the PUP list, he cannot return to action prior to Week 6.
New Orleans's defense certainly struggled against Washington on Sunday, surrendering 40 points to Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. The Saints could certainly use Vilma, but they'll have to wait until at least Week 7 before he's back on the field.
For more on the New Orleans Saints, be sure to check out Canal Street Chronicles.
The NFL has circulated a memo to NFL executives with its reaction to the reinstatement of four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. The league is holding to its position on the matter, if this quote that comes via the NFL Network's Albert Breer is any indication:
"Per the panel's direction, the Commissioner will promptly reconsider the matter and make a determination of the appropriate discipline consistent with the standards set forth in today's decision...Nothing in today's decision contradicts any of the facts found in the investigation into this matter, or absolves any player of responsibility for conduct detrimental."
Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita all had their suspensions stemming from the Saints bounty scandal overturned by the appeals panel, and all four will be eligible to play in Week 1. There was no action taken on the suspension to Saints coaches, who are not covered under the NFL Players Association collective bargaining agreement.
In the wake of a ruling from an appeals panel that will lift the suspension of four players suspended for involvement in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, the NFL Players Association released a statement Friday about the ruling:
"We are pleased that the appeals panel ruled unanimously to lift the players' suspensions immediately. We will continue to vigorously protect the rights of all players."
Each of the four players suspended (Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita) are now available for Week 1 of the regular season, but the ruling did not proclaim the players innocent. In fact, it verified that the players were involved in a bounty scandal, but the panel disagreed with the jurisdiction that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took when suspending the players.
The case will be re-evaluated by Goodell and can still result in consequences for the players.
An internal appeals panel has lifted the suspensions of the four players suspended in the fallout from the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Some of the players immediately took to Twitter to celebrate. Saints defensive end Will Smith, who would have been suspended for four games, was professional and reserved:
Thank you to everyone involved in the process of this solution.. And everyone who supported us through this whole ordeal. #whodat— Will Smith (@iWillSmith) September 7, 2012
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was facing a year-long suspension, was more colorful:
Victory is mine!!!! -stewie griffin— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 7, 2012
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked by the Times-Picayune if he was surprised to see the suspensions lifted, and replied "No. I'm not surprised. Obviously I felt like they saw the information that we've seen for a long time." Safety Malcolm Jenkins offered his thoughts as well:
"I think we all know what went on and what was right and what was wrong. We were just at a time to wait and see how it all played out. It sounds like good news. Anything that sounds like they can get here sooner than they were supposed to is going to be great for our team."
The Saints open the season against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
The NFL has confirmed that those players suspended in the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty case are reinstated for the time being. This comes after the players had their suspensions vacated by an appeals panel.
League spokesman Greg Aiello tells the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"Consistent with the panel's decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league's pay-for-performance/bounty rule," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."
The potential for discipline isn't over yet as NFL Network's Albert Breer tweets.
... The important piece here is if Goodell does suspended the four Saints again, this time, is HAS to be specifically for pay-to-injure.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 7, 2012
For now, though, this remains a victory for those Saints and former Saints suspended as a result.
The four players suspended in the wake of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal had their suspensions lifted by an internal appeals panel that is part of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. Suspensions for Saints coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams still stand because coaches are not covered by the CBA.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. Williams received an indefinite suspension for his role in the team's bounty program. Vitt must serve a six-game suspension before taking over as the interim coach in New Orleans. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will serve as the Saints interim coach while Vitt is suspended.
Payton appealed his suspension to the league, but it was rejected by Goodell in April.
Williams was hired by incoming St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher to be his defensive coordinator there. That move was made before the league revealed the results of its bounty investigation and issued suspensions for the coaches.
The players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have seen their suspensions overturned, according to a number of reports. Those four players will be eligible to play in Week 1 this weekend.
Vilma and Smith are still with the Saints, which is a big boost for them this weekend against the Washington Redskins. Fujita is now with the Browns and he recently said he is "preparing as if he is playing" in Week 1. Hargrove is a free agent after being released by the Green Bay Packers earlier this offseason.
The Saints host the Redskins on Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox.
The suspensions for those players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have been overturned, according to a report from Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated.
BREAKING: A 3-member appeals panel has overturned the player suspensions in the Saints bounty case, says a source. Details coming.— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) September 7, 2012
Decision says Goodell can reconsider discipline only if there is evidence of intent to injure beyond just a performance pool, per source.— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) September 7, 2012
This means all players will be eligible to play in Week 1. NFL Commissioner can re-consider discipline in the case moving forward so it's not necessarily a total victory for the Saints but for the time being it is.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith released a statement on Thursday expressing his frustration with the unresolved situation surrounding his four-game suspension stemming from the Saints "Bounty-,Gate" scandal.
Smith, in concordance with former teammates Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Jonathan Vilma, had a joint motion filed on their behalf by the NFL Players Association to have a temporary federal restraining order block the suspensions. The NFLPA argues that the individuals could face irreparable harm if they are forced to miss games while their case continues against the league.
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is handling the case and has already stated that she found the league's handling of the bounty scandal unfair. However, she hasn't decided if the courts have jurisdiction over the matter.
This has left Smith disappointed with the speed of the process:
As we get closer to kickoff on Sunday, I am disappointed my playing status remains in limbo. I respect Judge Berrigan's order and my legal team has been diligent in responding. [...] Irreparable harm has already been levied on me and the players. We have been unfairly labeled and punished by this process. [...] It is my sincere hope to have this matter resolved as quickly as possible so I may return to my job, teammates and fans, as we take the field against the Redskins.
To read the entire statement, click here.
The motion was filed on behalf of three of the four suspended players: Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed for a similar motion when his full-season suspension began.
In the proposed retraining order, the union argues that the players would suffer irreparable harm if forced to miss games while their case against the league continues. The players want the suspension thrown out entirely because of the way the discipline process was handled.
There is a dispute on whether the league's collective bargaining agreement gives Commissioner Roger Goodell the authority to both punish the players and hear their appeals for the alleged pay-for-injure scheme.
Players have denied employing such a bounty program, while admitting there was a pay-for-performance program in which players would receive extra money for big hits and big plays
Until current New Orleans Saints head coach Joe Vitt returns from his six-game suspension, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Mickey Loomis, has appointed offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to lead the team in the interim.
Kromer has been with the Saints for five seasons.
In a team press release, Loomis gave his reasoning behind naming Kromer as acting head coach:
"This was a difficult decision because we have several coaches on our staff that would do a great job in this role," said Loomis. "Ultimately, I wanted to have the least amount of change with both the offensive and defensive staffs, and maintain the most continuity with the program that has been in place for the last six years."
"Aaron has been with us since 2008, he has coached with Sean both in college and here at the Saints. He is very familiar with our team and with the methods we have been successful with. He will do a great job," added Loomis.
Jonathan Vilma might not serve the entire length of his season-long suspension in the wake of the Saints' bounty scandal. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports the linebacker could reach an agreement with the NFL to cut his time without play or pay to only eight games -- he broke the news via Twitter:
Sources say league has proposed to reduce Jonathan Vilma's one-year suspension to 8 games but no agreement yet. Talks ongoing.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) August 6, 2011
The offer was apparently made last week. This has to do with Vilma's lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming that the suspension defames Vilma's character. The league has asked him to drop the suit -- he mockingly posted about the demand on Twitter -- and it would seem the league isn't all too pleased about the idea of the suit ever making it to court. The reduced suspension is apparently contingent on Vilma dropping the suit.
However, ESPN reports that it's Vilma who hasn't accepted the terms of the deal, apparently thinking the suit could benefit him more than playing half a season -- or just that he has the upper hand in whatever negotiations with the league are going on.
Jonathan Vilma has had his hearing to delay his suspension moved up to July 26, a week earlier than the original hearing. The Saints open their training camp on July 26, and Vilma is allowed to attend camp while he is suspended. His attorneys have also asked for a temporary restraining order before camp opens. The NFL's claim is that Vilma did not, in their words, "exhaust the dispute resolution procedures" in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
Vilma and his coaches continue to refute the NFL's claim that Vilma ever placed a bounty on an opposing player, offering up a cash payment for an injury. The NFL had an appeal hearing for Vilma and the other players suspended in the bounty scandal case, and none of them chose to attend that hearing to defend themselves. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld their suspensions at that hearing.
Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams spoke publicly Friday for the first time since being suspended indefinitely for orchestrating a pay-for-performance bounty program. At a charity golf event in his hometown of Excelsior Springs, Mo., Williams said "I will coach again," when asked about his future.
Williams also said that he has not spoken with commissioner Roger Goodell since the penalties were levied. Otherwise, he refrained from saying much about the bounty scandal, instead turning attention to his charity, the Gregg Williams Foundation.
The logistics of Williams returning to the league seem daunting at the moment. Then again, the allegations are still relatively fresh. Four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith -- appealed their suspensions in connection with the bounty program. All four suspensions were upheld by Goodell and the NFL.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm has wrapped up their investigation into the Penn State sexual assault scandal, and now turns their eyes towards the New Orleans Saints bounty program and wiretapping allegations. Saints owner Tom Benson hired the Freeh Group primarily to investigate the wiretapping allegations made against Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.
Saints president of communications Greg Bensel released a statement via email to the New Orleans Times-Picayune regarding the investigation that the Freeh Group is currently conducting.
"We take these allegations very seriously. As a result, we have hired the Freeh Group, founded by former director of the FBI and former federal judge Louis Freeh. Mr. Benson moved quickly to hire them and has spared no expense to get to the bottom of these allegations."
The Freeh Group began their investigation into the matter three months ago, and that investigation is still ongoing.
The summer of law in New Orleans continues.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation, and the NFL has now responded by filing a grievance and requesting that Vilma drop the suit against Goodell. The Times-Picayune reports:
The NFL Management Council argues in the letter that Vilma's suit is in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement, which has a clause preventing players from suing the NFL or any club. The management council says that because Vilma is suing Goodell for actions he performed in enforcement of the CBA -- referring to his season-long suspension of Vilma and statements he made supporting it -- Goodell's conduct is protected by the "no-suit" provision.
Basically, the league is saying that they're governed by the CBA, which protects Goodell.
Vilma, for his part, is LOLing at the NFL. HIs tweet is gold:
The nfl sent me a letter "demanding" I drop my defamation suit or else...lol or else wat?!?? They no likey me lawsuitey— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) July 12, 2012
It's getting hard to keep straight all the various lawsuits arising from the NFL's punishment of the New Orleans Saints in the bounty case. Earlier on Thursday, the NFLPA filed a federal lawsuit regarding NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's impartiality (or, as the NFLPA claims, lack thereof) in the appeals of the players involved in the Saints bounty case.
A different lawsuit is currently moving through the court system. Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell earlier this year, and Goodell responded on Thursday with a motion to dismiss.
NFL/Goodell in motion to dismiss vs. Vilma: "Mr. Vilma’s claims are all barred because they represent an improper attempt to circumvent ..."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 5, 2012
(NFL cont): "... the mandatory and binding dispute resolution procedures required by the NFL CBA."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 5, 2012
In English, Goodell is saying that the CBA should be governing them, not anyone on the outside.
Thursday was the deadline for Goodell to respond so this response was expected.
Just when you thought the Bounty Scandal was done and over with, it rises from the dead like a zombie attacking Herschel's Farm. The NFLPA has now filed a new lawsuit against the NFL, claiming that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has violated the newly signed CBA.
In a statement released today, the NFLPA charges Goodell with being partial in his decision to suspend the players.
"It becomes more apparent with each passing day, however, that the NFL's objective was not to follow the CBA and provide a fair process, but to validate a biased investigation and to deprive the Players of any meaningful ability to defend themselves against a preordained result."
The NFLPA is asking that the case be heard by a third-party arbitrator that will be impartial on the case. The NFL responded to the NFLPA statement however, claiming that the players and the NFLPA are trying to find a ruling around the newly signed CBA, rather than abiding by the ruling made under the parameters of the CBA.
"As in the case of Mr. Vilma's lawsuit, this is an improper attempt to litigate an issue that is committed to a collectively bargained process. There is no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining. These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades."
This doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.
On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL upheld suspensions for the four players in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. Following the league's announcement, the NFLPA issued a statement echoing the union's ongoing concerns over the handling of the investigation and the role of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the disciplinary process.
Here is the full statement:
The players are disappointed with the League's conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the Commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.
The NFLPA has never and will never condone dangerous or reckless conduct in football and to date, nothing the League has provided proves these players were participants in a pay-to-injure program. We will continue to pursue all options.
As the statement makes clear, this will not be the final round of back-and-forth over the suspensions handed down in the bounty case. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, suspended for the entire season, is suing the league over the suspension, and has also filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has finally ruled on the appeals in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. Goodell, as many expected, upheld the suspensions of the four current or former Saints players involved.
In his letter to players, Goodell wrote:
"Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions. Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process..."
"Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,' your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental' determinations..."
Goodell made the initial ruling on the players and also heard the appeals so hardly anyone thought he would he reverse his decisions. The NFLPA has called for a complete re-do of the NFL's investigation but it doesn't sound like that will be happening.
In his latest lawsuit stemming from his bounty suspension, New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma claims that the team's former defensive assistant coach Mike Cerullo went to the NFL with information related to the investigation in 2011. Cerullo, Vilma claims, went to the NFL to settle a personal score against the team that once employed him.
Cerullo was fired after missing time with the team during their Super Bowl run. He received a knock-off version of the Super Bowl ring which was came to be a physical embodiment of his resentment, according to Vilma's complaint. Vilma's suit goes so far as to claim that the former assistant coach "pledged revenge" on the team, and that came in the form of bogus claims to the NFL.
The lawsuit outs Cerullo as a major source of evidence in the league's investigation. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL have been reluctant to release evidence related to the bounty case out of fear of retribution against their sources. Eventually, the league did allow a group of reporters to see some of the evidence used in the case. Vilma's suit could lead to the release of additional evidence collected by the league.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is front and center for the Bounty Scandal and has now filed a new lawsuit against the NFL in federal court.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suing the NFL in federal court, claiming commissioner Roger Goodell failed to make a timely appeal ruling regarding Vilma's season-long suspension in connection with the league's bounty investigation.
Vilma has been battling the NFL in court, arguing that his image has been irreparably harmed by being the face of the scandal. The lawsuit, which was filed Saturday night in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, asks for a temporary restraining order to allow Vilma to continue working if Goodell upholds the suspension.
Currently, Vilma is set to serve a full-season suspension and is fighting for the chance to play in 2012.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees joined the chorus of players and others criticizing the NFL's handling of player discipline in the Saints bounty scandal. In an appearance on WFAN in New York, Brees described the league's approach as "guilty until proven innocent" and questioned the evidence being used against the players.
"I certainly don't feel the investigation was fair or that it was due process or that it was the attitude or it was innocent until proven guilty. In fact I feel like it was quite the opposite. Guilty until proven innocent. We're going to hand out punishments prior to even talking to the players and we're going to do this investigation to lead us to a desired conclusion that we have already established in our minds as opposed to just gathering the facts or making sure it's real evidence or it's real facts."
The NFL revealed some of the evidence it says proves the existence of a bounty program in New Orleans to a handful of reporters following an appeal by the four suspended players, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma. Echoing the suspended players and others, Brees said that the evidence did not directly point to any wrongdoing by the suspended players.
"It's not just a tape or an audio that has a bunch of tough talk on it or that it's a ledger that doesn't have any names on it and when you try to figure out what game it was you guess wrong the first two times you say it was a certain game, it's just misstep after misstep with their evidence and none of it I feel like is valid and none of it proves that there was money changing hands in a paid injury scheme that involved the guys accused. We're talking about guy's careers and reputations and livelihood and good guys too."
Brees' name has come up in the bounty narrative as an intermediary in the decision to release filmmaker Sean Pamphilon's audio tape of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' fiery exhortation to players the night before a January 2012 playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in which he encouraged players to "kill the head" of specific opponents.
For more on the Saints, check out Canal Street Chronicles.
If you've been confused by the NFL's investigation into the New Orleans Saints alleged bounty program, then join the rest of us. It seems every time one party says anything, others are there to say it's not true. Count NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith among those who want clearer answers in the Saints bounty investigation.
Smith wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to re-do the whole thing.
As a fellow steward of this game, and wholly apart from the union's and the players' legal objections, in light of these retractions and contradictions that have come to your recent attention, I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a "pay to injure" scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings.
Specifically, Smith cites the claims that Joe Vitt participated in the bounty program, despite his clear denials that he was involved. Smith also notes that the NFL said Mike Ornstein corroborated other sources who said Jonathan Vilma placed a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre, but Ornstein has since said he never said that.
While it appears there was some sort of pay-for-performance scheme, the evidence isn't as clear when it comes to bounties. That there are multiple questions about the NFL's investigation does make you wonder where the truth actually is.
The NFL will not have to face a higher power over the issue of bounties in the wake of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Roger Goodell met with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin on Wednesday afternoon. Following that meeting, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the upper chamber said that a proposed hearing on bounties in professional football would be called off.
Durbin was persuaded by Goodell's explanation of the league's forthcoming efforts to prevent anything like the Saints scandal from happening again. On top of the punishments handed down to current and former Saints players and coaches, Goodell assured the Senator that there would be sanctions for any such activities discovered in the future.
The league will be adding a section to the player handbook regarding bounties. On top of that, the NFL will introduce something of a social marketing campaign around the issue. Locker rooms will feature posters reminding players and coaches about the illegality of bounties, and the NFL will establish a hotline where people can report bounties or similar activities.
Prior to the meeting between Goodell and Sen. Durbin, the NFLPA sent out a statement calling for a hearing on player health and safety concerns.
New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt released a statement Wednesday to maintain his innocence in regards to the bounty program that has racked the organization with suspensions from players to front office. Among the evidence released by the NFL to the NFL Players Association were indications that Vitt contributed to the bounty pool.
The Commissioner confirmed that there is no such allegation or suspicion in a conversation that we had today and the NFL has publicly sought to clarify that the document that has been mischaracterized was not intended to implicate me -- formally or informally. I reaffirmed my pledge to the Commissioner to be an agent for change in helping to find new ways and practices to make our game safer for all players. I look forward to continued conversations with the league on this matter.
Finally, it cannot be emphasized enough, none of our players, particularly those who are facing suspensions, ever crossed the white line with the intent to injure an opponent. I am proud of our players and stand behind them 100% and will do whatever I can to help restore their good names.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell traveled to Washington DC on Wednesday. Goodell had a meeting to discuss -- what else -- bounties in the NFL with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The two were scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. A press conference will follow the meeting.
According to Pro Football Talk, there was no subpoena and Goodell was not going to be sitting in front of any Senate committees. It is not yet clear who initiated the meeting.
The NFLPA made a statement concerning the meeting, thanking Durbin for his interest. The Players Association also laid out a demand for a Congressional hearing on player health and safety. The text of the NFLPA statement reads:
We thank the Senator for his interest on these important issues. Given this keen interest, the players hope and expect that the Commissioner and the Senator will commit to a hearing on health and safety in the NFL in the near future.
Look for additional updates following the press conference.
Why is the NFL so doggedly pursuing punishments for the players, coaches and others involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal? Former Saints player Anthony Hargrove, one of four players suspended for playing a role in the pay-for-performance system, says the league's pursuit centers on "image, power and money."
Hargrove released a statement to the media on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the start of the appeal hearing for himself, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, denying the accusations against him. Using analogies ranging from former President Bill Clinton to the Mona Lisa's smile, Hargrove also refuted the league's claim that its evidence implicates him in the Saints' bounty program.
The former Saints defensive end devoted several paragraphs of his statement to explaining that that it was his voice heard demanding payment for a hit on Brett Favre in the January 2012 NFC championship game in a video shown to players and reporters on Monday.
Hargrove's denial is the latest in the back-and-forth over punishments handed out in the bounty program. Mike Ornstein denied the league's evidence that named him as a source in corroborating Vilma's $10,000 offer to take Favre out of the game. Joe Vitt also denied the league's assertion that he admitted to contributing money to a bounty pool.
At its core, this is a debate about how league handling player discipline through a centralized approach with all power in the commissioner's hands, a premise included in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement agreed to by players and the league. What this is not is an endpoint, or even a milestone indicating that a resolution is near.
The full text of Hargrove's statement, which was first obtained by Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, is below:
I have sat back over the past few months and watched as the NFL has spent countless hours painting a picture that has left a lot of people convinced that myself and three other players deserve to be punished, not to mention the coaching staff and Mr. Loomis. I have asked myself a million times: why? Why on earth are they trying to make a mountain out of a molehill? I do not have an absolute answer, but I'm guessing it has something to do with image, power, and money.
The words they have used over the months to capture your hearts and minds have been many, practiced, and calculated. But that does not make them true. It just makes them good at what they do. They are, in my opinion, master politicians. Bill Clinton once said, "I did not have sex with that woman."
Semantics. Politicians are good at it.
There is no way I can reveal to you today the depth of their imagination and determination in painting this picture for you, the public, adroitly using the media as their tools of art. But I will dabble a little. And stay with me, because even though they have somberly made it clear that "The Mona Lisa" is not smiling, if we move in closer we notice that ... just maybe she is.
First of all, I watched in shock as they took my declaration a couple of months ago and made it into something it was not. It left from me as a private explanation of certain specific events and, voila, came out as a confession of crimes. Even I had to blink my eyes real hard to see how they did that one. Do you know they never even asked me what I meant? Just assumed I wanted to confess, I guess.
Or in this case, maybe just lies. They publicly said that I said things that I did not say. Is that not lying? Isn't it? Go back and read for yourselves without assuming that it says what they have made you think, and then re-read their synopsis. Please try to have an open mind.
They also said that I declined to be interviewed a few weeks back. Again, untrue. I know it sounds dubious to the public when they hear that I declined to visit with Mr. Goodell, and that was their intent, I'm guessing. But they were the first to decline. After that, I, too, became dubious.
Yesterday I heard that they have a witness who saw me tell Joe Vitt that I lied? Who is this mystery witness? You may come forward. I won't bite. The truth is that I feel certain I know who this supposed witness is, and if you knew you would understand why this is all so shady. The problem is, since I am only 99 percent sure who this supposed witness is, I will keep it to myself, because that is what honesty and integrity demand ... absolute certainty. And even then, why intentionally drag that person's name through the mud, as the NFL has done mine?
But it did not happen as they say!
They say, and I quote, "the circumstances strongly suggest that you told at least one player on another club about the program, and confirmed that Brett Favre was the target of a bounty." I did no such thing. Do I think someone told them I did? Probably. And I believe it was probably the same mystery witness. But it ... did ... not ... happen! There is no way they have absolute proof, because it does not exist. I would stake my career on it.
I have felt like the target of a sophisticated mugging, watching as many have walked by and minded their own business as if the muggers deserved their prize. Why have most walked by? Because they were not the ones being mugged, or maybe because they felt that they had no vested interest. True, some halve yelped out that maybe someone should help, but even most of them keep on walking by.
I call out to my fellow NFL brothers around the NFL to not buy in. Look closer. You have not been given the full truth. There has been a tactful attempt to cause division among us, but we must not let it work! We should seek the truth out with diligence and band together if at all possible. Trust me, it could be you next time being mugged.
And that brings me to the final issue for the day. And for this we must literally lean in and look and listen very closely. Part of the NFL's evidence so prominently and proudly displayed yesterday included a DVD with interesting excerpts from the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. They showed it to the players and then to "The Twelve". It showed certain highlights from the game and a little sideline discussion, among other things. The Twelve, from what I heard, came away very convinced that the NFL had put on ... what did they call it ... oh yeah, an explosive and compelling show of evidence.
As I watched the DVD, I did not think so. In fact, I felt similar to how I had felt when I read the NFL's statement about my declaration. Bewildered. I looked around the room wondering if anyone else caught what the NFL had done. It seemed no one did. They are very, very good.
To replay it for you, they first showed me hitting Favre in the 2nd quarter, up high. Some debated whether it was a legal hit or not. I was flagged and later fined. It happens. Sorry Brett. Then in the 4th quarter Favre was hurt by a high/low hit by a couple of my teammates. And he left the game temporarily with an ankle issue, it seemed. And stunningly, that happens in NFL games, too.
But this is where it gets interesting. The NFL has a sideline shot of our defense gathered around Joe Vitt discussing what we might should expect if the backup quarterback comes into the game. It shows me off to the side with some of our other defensive linemen on the bench with their backs to the camera. The final snippet has an arrow pointed at me with the caption indicating that I had said, "give me my money."
Here's the problem with that. It wasn't me. That's right. The NFL got their evidence all wrong. In their rush to convict me, they made a very serious error. Is it intentional? I don't know. But one thing I do know with absolute certainty ... it ... was ... not ... me! Like I said, lean in closer, look closer, listen closer. It is not my voice. Anyone who knows me well knows that it is not me. But the NFL does not know me well. They simply make assumptions. With ... my ... life.
Any coach evaluating film would have thought that #69 played a very exciting, great football game, the way it is supposed to be played. And yet the NFL has cut it up and made me out to be a monster.
They duped "The Twelve" and many others. For example, I have seen the NFL Network broadcast that it was me as if it were fact. But again, it is absolutely not. It will be easily provable. In fact, there is no way they can prove that it is me. I stake my life on the fact that it is not me. I wonder if Roger Goodell is willing to stake his job on this piece of evidence? Or Jeff Pash? Or Adolpho Birch? Or Mary Jo White? Or anyone else associated with this mockery? In fact, since we are here, does anyone want to go up and ask them? And how about you guys? Are any of you willing to put your job on the line and say that this piece of evidence is accurate? By a show of hands, please?
The truth is, this has been embarrassing to have all these lies about me echoing across America. Good Lord have my eyes been opened! Just ask yourself ... if they will manufacture this piece of so-called evidence, what else will they do? I know it looks confusing, especially when they tell you what to look for, but don't believe it. This, in my mind, brings everything into question. Everything. And all of this because one man has absolute power and seemingly must use it. We as players have to be very careful. Do they care about us? When they are willing to twist things to hurt us? Come on guys.
As for most of the media, I would hope you would not believe every accusation you hear in the future. Dig deeper before you come up with your story headlines and opinions. You might be interested in what you find. You might even find that "The Mona Lisa" is actually smiling.
Eric Winston spoke out against Roger Goodell's 'absolute power' in an interview on Monday.
The NFL delivered what might have been one of the final blows in the New Orleans Saints bounty saga on Monday afternoon. Following the appeal hearings for the four suspended players, the league brought a dozen reporters, including Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, into a room at its New York headquarters and showed them the evidence the league uncovered in its investigation and decision to punish the players.
Just how revealing was the evidence? King called it "explosive, compelling" in a tweet after seeing it. And what exactly was this evidence? Former Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who was hired by the NFL to review the materials, presented it twice on Monday, once to the players appealing their suspension and again to the 12 reporters. Documents ran the gamut from Gregg Williams' testimony to a PowerPoint slide featuring a picture of Dog the Bounty Hunter and stacks of cash.
Among the more notable revelations on Monday:
One thing clear from the reports is the extensive cooperation from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He walked the league through the details of the bounty system and pointed the league in the right direction to investigate further.
Saints owner Tom Benson provided the league access to the team's computer systems, which allowed them to recover the soon-to-be infamous PowerPoint slide.
The batch of evidence presented Monday was in addition to an earlier batch obtained by Freeman.
Players and their attorneys received the evidence on Friday, but argued Monday that they did not receive it with the required 72-hour window and therefore did not have time to adequately review the material. The appeal adjourned during the middle part of the day to allow for additional review time.
The players left the appeal hearing claiming that the process was unfair. The NFL will leave the hearing open through the rest of the week to give players a chance to present their side in the appeal process.
Jonathan Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg left the hearing entirely on Monday morning. Vilma is personally suing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation of character related to the league's handling of the bounty scandal.
So what happens now?
Fans tired of hearing the endless back and forth are unlike to get a break anytime soon -- at least not until training camp starts, and probably not then either. The players and their counsel could pursue other options, and the demand to see more evidence, more direct evidence that points to those players with even more specifics, is only likely to get louder. The Vilma lawsuit, if it makes it far enough into the court proceedings, could expose even more animosity.
Players saw the evidence presented here before the appeal and heard it presented again during the appeal by White. On top of the claim that they did not have the evidence in enough time to prepare for Monday's appeal, the players have pointed to flaws in the due process because they were not allowed to question coaches or even White.
Since the bounty revelations were first revealed at the beginning of March, players and the players union have demanded more transparency from the league with the evidence being used in the case. Simple curiosity has fed the public's appetite to see more. On Monday, the NFL met those demands. The argument going forward will likely hinge on the evidence not being revealed by the league, but the latest news likely makes it even more of an uphill fight for the suspended players.
The NFLPA released a statement from Richard Smith, the union's outside counsel, on Monday afternoon further criticizing the league's handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation and the process of handing out punishments to the four players indicted for their involvement. In that statement, Smith accuses the league of "whitewashing" a "sloppy" investigation.
Smith's statement echoes familiar charges from the NFLPA and players throughout the bounty saga. He alleges that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was "unfair" in his discipline of players as well as denying those players proper due process.
The unfair discipline of players for their alleged involvement in a pay-to-injure/bounty program violated the Commissioner's duty to refrain from resorting to improper methods to defend an unsubstantiated pronouncement.
The NFLPA memo did reveal that former Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who was hired by the NFL to review the investigation, was on hand at Monday's appeal for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma. White read a report of the investigation at Monday's appeal hearing, but was not allowed to field questions from players or their attorneys.
Smith also took the league to task for providing only 200 pages of evidence among some 18,000 pages the NFL claims to have. The NFLPA claims that the evidence was provided after the required 72-hour window, and Smith claimed that the NFL declined their request for a three-day adjournment to review the documents.
The appeal hearing resumed on Monday afternoon following a brief window to further review the evidence provided by the league. Vilma and his attorney pulled out of the appeal, calling it a "sham."
The NFL released a bundle of evidence in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal on Friday afternoon as required for Monday's appeal hearing with the four suspended players. Mike Freeman, who is covering the appeal for CBS Sports, got his hands on that evidence. He shared some observations on Monday that cast some doubts on the power of that evidence.
Perhaps the most telling summation of the evidence from Freeman, was this:
To me, from what I've read with my own two eyes, this isn't proof. That doesn't mean the NFL doesn't have it, it just means this isn't it.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) June 18, 2012
The NFL was not required to hand over all of its evidence in the case. The collective bargaining agreement only stipulates that the league allow players and their representatives to see evidence that points to their guilt, which makes Freeman's claim that much more stunning.
Freeman said that the most revealing items were handwritten notes showing bounty amounts. There was also a note that said "qb out pool" and listed a $5,000 contribution from assistant coach Joe Vitt, who was suspended for the first six games of the season.
The league invited former Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to review its evidence, and White signed off it, noting that it was particularly incriminating. However, NFL officials have claimed that releasing the evidence would compromise its sources for the investigation.
Freeman added in his analysis that the league could well be holding onto additional evidence indicting the four players, but that evidence was not included in the bundle released on Friday, according to Freeman.
Jonathan Vilma ended his appeal over his punishment in the New Orleans Saints bounty case just an hour after it began on Monday morning in New York. Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg cited the league's refusal to provide more evidence as the reason behind the decision to pull out of the process.
The three other players appealing their suspensions, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith, were given a recess to review the evidence provided, and the appeal will convene again at 1:45 p.m. ET.
Ginsberg called the appeal process a "sham." He added further that the evidence not shared by the league in advance of Monday's appeal hearing would exonerate his client and the other three players who were suspended, according to Jim Varney of the Times-Picayune.
Players appealing the league's suspension said that the league did not provide the evidence within the 72-hour window prior to the hearing as required. The recess was called to give the players' side more time to review the documents.
Vilma is suing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation based on claims made his role in the Saints bounty scandal. Ginsberg was, according to Varney, "vague" in alluding to additional legal avenues to seek recourse.
As the NFL and NFLPA are headed to an appeals hearing today for the suspension of four players in relation to the New Orleans Saints bounty case, some of the players involved have released a statement regarding the NFL's actions. Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith have alleged that the NFL has "grossly misrepresented to the public" the activities of the players involved.
Below is the full statement released by the three players and the NFLPA, including a nice "Shame on Roger Goodell," statement.
We have purportedly been disciplined by the Commissioner for alleged activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the public.
We are in attendance today not because we recognize the Commissioner's jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because we believe the League would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL's case because this is not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due process afforded to us.
As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this League, we are profoundly disappointed with the NFL's conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has publicly said we did, and the Commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and power is fleeting.
Shame on the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell for being more concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor.
-- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith
The NFL is headed to an appeal on Monday, looking to uphold the suspension of four players and multiple coaches in the Saints Bounty Scandal. In a weird turn of events, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that some of the evidence the NFL is using was originally sent as a "joke".
Yet according to multiple sources familiar with the situation, [Mike] Ornstein insisted his emails were jokes, and he unsuccessfully attempted to convince NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of this during their conversations.
Mike Ornstein, a close friend of suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, sent e-mails from prison offering up bounties for players on opposing teams. Those e-mails are part of the evidence that the NFL will present, and clearly Goodell doesn't feel they were a joke.
Ornstein claims to have given the NFL and the NFLPA a text from suspended coach Gregg Williams, according to Schefter.
"I stood up for you & told them just that. I told them we never took that (stuff) serious. I never ever saw you ever give $ and that's just the truth," Williams allegedly told Ornstein.
Per league rules, the NFL has overturned the evidence used to suspend four players in connection with the New Orleans Saints bounty program. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Friday that the NFL followed "the procedures set forth in the CBA on appeals of commissioner discipline," but lawyers of defensive ends Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove, and linebackers Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma are seeking more in preparation for their appeals in front of Roger Goodell on Monday.
Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, looked over the evidence handed over by the league and said he found nothing linking any of the players to the bounty program. According to Ginsberg, the evidence centered mostly on then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
"The NFL provided a slideshow of Gregg Williams' most outrageous comments," Ginsberg said. "It is evidence that reflects an assistant coach in the NFL has a style that might rightfully be distasteful but that has been tolerated for years by several NFL teams. It in no way supports any of the accusations that Commissioner Goodell has so publicly made against Jonathan.
"There is nothing that evidences opposing players were targeted. There is nothing that evidences any of the players were involved in putting money on the heads of opposing players the way the Commissioner has suggested."
The league will maintain their case to suspend all four players Monday using the same evidence now in possession of the players and their legal teams.
The players suspended by the NFL for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program have asked the NFL to compel eight current and former Saints coaches and executives to appear at their appeal hearing on Monday. The NFLPA wrote to Roger Goodell, requesting that Sean Payton and Gregg Williams, along with six others, attend the hearing.
Goodell and the league will have to present some of the evidence against the players at the appeal hearing on Monday. The Saints coaches and executives are being asked to appear so that the union can gather more of the evidence used against the players that led to their suspensions. There's no word yet on whether or not the individuals that the players want to appear would be allowed to speak at the hearing.
The players have already lost a grievance that challenged Goodell's authority to suspend players for actions taken before the most recent collective bargaining agreement was signed. They are now appealing the suspensions themselves.
For more on the Saints, head over to Canal Street Chronicles.
The NFL released a statement on arbitrator Shyam Das' decision Friday to uphold commissioner Roger Goodell's right to hand out punishment in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. The NFL explained Das' decision, saying that the new collective bargaining agreement that went into affect on August 4, 2011, did not waive the Goodell's right to impose discipline for anything that happened under the old CBA.
After Commissioner Goodell suspended four players for their involvement in the bounty program, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance claiming that the NFL had waived any right to impose discipline on players for conduct occurring prior to August 4, 2011 when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed. After reviewing the relevant language of the CBA, Arbitrator Das dismissed the NFLPA's grievance, holding that the provision waiver relied upon by the union "does not . . . constitute an agreement by the NFL that the Commissioner relinquishes authority to impose discipline for conduct detrimental occurring prior to the execution of the CBA on August 4, 2011."
The NFL Players' Association filed a grievance to look into not only whether Goodell had any authority in the matter, but also whether the appeals of the four suspended Saints players could be heard by someone other than the commissioner himself. After Friday's ruling, the players will have to appeal in front of Goodell.
The NFL and NFLPA are involved in a number of cases right now. One of those regarding the New Orleans Saints and the punishments doled out as a result of the alleged program came to a resolution on Friday.
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, the arbitrator assigned to the Saints bounty case, Shyam Das, has ruled for the NFL and dismissed the NFLPA's grievance.
This particular grievance was looking into two key points. First, whether the new CBA waives the Commissioner's right to impose discipline on anything that happened in the previous CBA and second whether the appeals should be heard by the Commissioner or Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who were appointed jointly by the league and players.
This means that those Saints players appealing their punishment will do so in front of Goodell, who also handed out the punishment. From the player's perspective, that can't be a very appealing situation.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank already ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held the authority to impose discipline on three of the four Saints players.
The player appeals in the New Orleans Saints bounty case will be coming on June 18, according to a report from Steve Wyche of NFL.com. Four players suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will appeal their discipline in the first face-to-face meeting between the players and Goodell.
Those suspended players include Jonathan Vilma (full season), Anthony Hargrove (eight games), Will Smith (four games) and Scott Fujita (three games). Vilma and Smith both remain on the Saints. Hargrove is now with the Green Bay Packers and Fujita is a member of the Cleveland Browns.
The NFLPA has filed grievances involved in this case. They first challenged Goodell's authority to hand out punishment at all in this case, but that was shot down. They have also challenged whether Goodell, or someone else, should hear these appeals, but there has been no decision on that.
It wouldn't be a total stunner if one or more of the player suspensions were reduced after an appeal. The players have declined to speak with Goodell to this point, so perhaps there's new information the players can bring to the table when they do sit down with him.
It's also going to be interesting with Vilma and Goodell in the same room because Vilma has sued Goodell for defamation.
Saints fans, check out the video below with Nick Toon.
While the controversy swirling around the New Orleans Saints and an alleged bounty system that has cost the team the services of Jonathan Vilma and head coach Sean Payton for a year has not died down completely, news that trickles out drip-by-drip at this point is mostly of small scope. Case in point: Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver reports that Roman Harper and Jo-Lonn Dunbar were both paid for hits in New Orleans's win over the Detroit Lions in the 2011 NFL playoffs in January 2012.
Documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon reportedly played audio of then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams awarding Harper and Dunbar $200 each for "whack" hits on Lions players during a visit to NFL headquarters in May. While the NFL is likely to use this as evidence of an ongoing bounty system, the NFL Players Association would likely argue that "whack" hit payouts are for clean hits.
One NFLPA source, referred to as a defender who played for the Saints under Williams, told Silver that "whack" hits are little different from pancake blocks:
"It's the equivalent of a 'pancake' for an offensive lineman – a clean hit that knocks a defender on his ass. Everyone who knows Gregg knows what that means."
The NFLPA took a bit of a blow in their lawsuit against the NFL in the New Orleans Saints Bounty case, as Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of the NFL. The NFLPA is obviously not happy with the ruling and issued a statement, indicating the NFLPA does plan to appeal the decision.
The NFL Players Association will appeal today's decision to the Appeals Panel provided by the CBA for the review of all system arbitrator decisions.
Any pay-to-injure program runs counter to the health and safety principles we stand for as players. However, none of the players punished in this case have seen a shred of evidence justifying the NFL's punishment.
In the opinion, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank wrote, "[I]t is important to emphasize - with respect to all of the Players - that nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed."
The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players.
The NFLPA pleaded its case to Burbank last week, but the Special Master clearly didn't find the case very compelling.
The NFLPA is also still waiting on a ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das, arguing that Goodell could not rule on the matter because it happened prior to the 2011 CBA. That ruling is expected to be handed down sometime soon.
Special Master Stephen Burbank handed down his ruling in the NFLPA's grievance against the NFL, according to reports circulating on Monday morning. Burbank ruled in favor of the NFL, keeping the matter of player suspensions within the realm of personal conduct. The news was first reported by Pro Football Talk.
The news comes as a blow to the players and the union. Last week, they pleaded their case in front of Burbank that the Saints' pay for performance scandal and the resulting suspensions for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma should be handled as a salary cap violation. That would have taken the matter out of Roger Goodell's jurisdiction and put it front of Burbank, who is tasked with settling cap disputes under the terms of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.
Suspended players are quickly running out of avenues for appeal. Because the league labeled the matter as conduct detrimental to the league, it falls directly under Goodell. Typical on-field conduct matters can be appealed to Ted Cottrell and Art Shell.
Earlier this month, arbitrator Shyam Das heard an appeal from the NFLPA arguing that Goodell could not rule on the matter because it happened prior to the 2011 CBA. A ruling on that matter is expected any day.
Late on Friday afternoon, Yahoo Sports reported that the NFL was in possession of a ledger documenting the New Orleans Saints pay for performance program, including player bounties. Since then, suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and his lawyer Peter Ginsberg spent the weekend countering the assertion that the ledger proves anything.
Ginsberg released a statement pointing out the ledger did not identify players paid or any of the supposed targets. He also noted that in the 2009 contest against the Carolina Panthers, in which three payments were supposedly paid for injuries, "show that opposing defensive players, not offensive players, were the brunt of any physical plays." Ginsberg added that the payments made were for legal plays and "dirty or penalized" play resulted in fines.
Vilma is suing NFL commission Roger Goodell for defamation. The Saints linebacker, who was suspended for the entire season, maintains that he did not sponsor or participate in any kind of bounty program. Ginsberg reiterated that point in the statement.
The truth is that Jonathan Vilma gave no money, incentive or encouragement ever - not at any time in his eight-year career - to injure or knock out of any game any player with a dirty or unsportsmanlike hit. The facts are plain and simple. During the three seasons in question, Jonathan Vilma was one of the least penalized players not only on the Saints but in the NFL. There is not one instance in which Jonathan Vilma set out to injure a player or gave any incentive to another player to injure an opposing player.
While his lawyer handled the official response, Vilma took to Twitter to offer his own reaction to reports of the ledger.
why doesnt he "leak" one single document that has a bounty on a player and the amount??? That would shut me up— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) June 3, 2012
The initial report cited a game against a 2009 game against the Bills resulted in thee payments for injuries. The source cited in Jason Cole's initial report then corrected that information to say that the game in question was actually the 2009 contest against the Panthers. Vilma made note of that correction citing a blog post at The Angry Who Dat which says that game does not match the details in the report.
Oh and the correction to the correction was wrong too! Are u serious??Ledger-gate? Let’s look at the Carolina game. j.mp/L8TK1I— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) June 2, 2012
The back and forth over evidence in the bounty scandal is likely to get louder.
The NFL has in its possession a "ledger" used by the New Orleans Saints to track the team's pay for performance system, which includes player bounties, according to a report from Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports.
Cole's report cites two separate sources with knowledge of the NFL investigation into the bounty program in claiming the league has this "ledger." The document includes unofficial fines for player mistakes as well as money for "cart-offs" and "whacks" that were part of the bounty program. Those same sources said that the NFL showed portions of this ledger to individuals investigated in the bounty program.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Cole that the NFL "made mention" of the ledger in an April meeting between the two parties. Atallah said that the NFLPA had not actually seen it.
The Saints bounty scandal was revealed in early March when the NFL released a report detailing the findings of the league's investigation. Since then, the NFLPA has contended that the league is not affording players involved in the matter proper due process, including given the accused the opportunity to see the evidence. Atallah stood by that assertion in a text message to Cole about the ledger.
"I guess it either qualifies as evidence, which means fair due process was violated because [the] players didn't get to see it before they were punished or it is not hard evidence because they didn't get to see it and cross examine the validity of that piece of evidence," Atallah wrote.
The existence of such a document could be a problem for players claiming that they did not participate in a bounty program as alleged by the NFL. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, suspended for the entire season, is suing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation over his statements made about the bounty program.
The existence of such a ledger would appear to undermine any claims that players were not involved in the program.
Denials of the bounty program also run counter to an assertion made by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon in a Thursday night blog post. Pamphilon was the filmmaker who released audio of Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' exhortations to injure players from the 49ers in a January 2012 playoff game. In his blog post, Pamphilon details a discussion between linebacker Scott Fujita, quarterback Drew Brees and the NFLPA to release the audio as part of an effort to shift blame for the bounty program onto Williams and the coaches.
On Wednesday, the NFLPA argued in front of league special master Stephen Burbank that the bounty punishments should be handled as a cap issue because such payments constitute non-contract payments. That would put the matter in front of Burbank instead of Goodell, who has handled it as a player conduct issue. The existence of this ledger may undermine outright denials of player involvement, but it could play into the union's argument that the pay for performance program falls under Burbank's jurisdiction as a cap matter.
The NFL said in late May that it would consider releasing some of the evidence against players in the bounty scandal. The league has resisted requests to make the evidence known on the basis of protecting its sources.
The strange saga of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal took another odd and confusing turn on Thursday night. Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who gave the matter a more visceral feel when he released audio of Gregg Williams' violent exhortations to his players prior to a January playoff game against the 49ers, posted a lengthy chronicle on his website discussing the decision to release the audio of Williams' rant.
Pamphilon goes through the process in chronological order, revealing the ongoing involvement of former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, one of four players to receive a suspension for his role in the bounty program, in making the tape public.
Even though he was no longer a member of the Saints, Fujita was present for Williams' speech, along with former Saints player and ALS suffer Steve Gleason, the subject of Pamphilon's documentary. The filmmaker and Fujita began a dialogue over whether or not to release the audio in the days after the bounty scandal became known. They eventually released the tape almost a month later.
Pamphilon's piece tells reveals a prominent role for Fujita in arranging the release of the audio tape. In mid March, Fujita made a statement in a series of text messages between Pamphilon and Steve Gleason, trying to broker a deal to release the tapes, putting the issue beyond the context of bounties.
"an indictment on the culture of football, a big part of which is still archaic & has yet to evolve."
The post portrays Gleason torn on the matter, divided by a sense of loyalty to the team that continued to count him as one of their own through his struggle with terminal illness. After a March 18 conversation with Gleason, Pamphilon tabled the matter, but he did note that Gleason, at that time, wanted permission from the Saints as well as quarterback Drew Brees.
From there, the NFLPA received a copy of the audio from Pamphilon via arrangement with Fujita, a member of their executive committee. Pamphilon says the whole issue was tabled until April 2, when Fujita asked about plans to release the tape.
The league's evidence on the specifics of players involved in the bounty scandal has been at heart of the conflict between the NFL and the NFLPA. Players and the union want to see the evidence implicating them. The leagues says no because it would threaten individuals who provided that evidence. The union has filed a pair of grievances along those lines, and Jonathan Vilma has gone so far as to file a defamation suit against Roger Goodell, a mano a mano lawsuit outside the works of the league and the union.
The issue of evidence played a key role in the decision to release the audio of Williams.
Said Fujita in an April 2 text message to Pamphilon:
"I'm convinced the league doesn't really have shit on anybody."
The linebacker called Pamphilon the next day, which is when the decision to release the audio was made.
Scott calls me in the late morning and tells me that NFLPA lawyer, Heather McPhee had asked him if his "filmmaker friend" was still interested in releasing the audio. They weren't going to tell me to do it, but If I were still considering this, I might want to do it "the sooner the better."
Not even for a second did I pause and consider the NFLPA's motive for this particular timing. And to this day I cannot say with a certainty.
The idea behind releasing the audio tape was to shift blame in the bounty program onto Williams and the coaches. The NFLPA confirmed that to Deadspin. At this point, Pamphilon claims, Drew Brees was involved in the matter, supporting the decision to release the audio.
The story was finally going to come out and I was going to have this burden off my plate. Scott assures me that Drew Brees is fully on board with releasing the audio. The game plan was Drew would be talking to Steve and Michel to let them know their interests are protected and he supports the move because it will help his Saints teammates. The theory was that the audio would pin everything on their former defensive coach and mitigate the player penalties.
Just before 4pm-with Mike [Yahoo's Michael Silver] already a few hours into writing the story-Scott texts me, "I'm kind of actually excited about all this. Have no idea what's going to come of it, but at least I like that my boys (you and Silver) will be famous."
"That's the part that scares the fuck out of me," I text back.
With Silver working on the story, Brees pushed back on the release of the audio. Fujita then steps up the intermediary role, telling Pamphilon that the quarterback "hypersensitive" and that it "will be fine."
Along with Mike Silver's story, Pamphilon also released an essay on the matter titled "Tru Dat." Brees wanted to read the essay, along with Steve Gleason, before it was released. Pamphilon refused, fearing that Brees would send it to his agent and the NFLPA.
He offered to read the essay to them over the phone on the condition that Fujita join them on the call. Fujita declined, and it all but ended his contact with Pamphilon. The filmmaker expressed his sense of betrayal at Fujita's actions in the May 31 post.
I am completely STUNNED. The day before Fujita had asked me if I was afraid of losing access to subjects by going public with this material. I told him I felt my work transcended sports and if I didn't have access to team facilities, I could care less because none of my best work was done there.
My real fear, I told Scott was going doing something of this magnitude and be stranded without teammates. And when he refused to get on the phone, I realized I was now engulfed in my own self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the days after the audio's release. Steve Gleason pushed back, saying that Pamphilon had no basis for releasing the material. The filmmaker says he felt as though had been pitted against two beloved sports figures in Brees and Gleason.
At that point, Pamphilon and Fujita talk again, but the conversation is different. Fujita tells the filmmaker of talking to Brees and Gleason and being "apologetic toward them" over the tape's release.
In a response to Deadspin, Fujita expressed his own sense of betrayal at Pamphilon's actions:
"[Fujita] shared very private and personal feelings with someone I believed was a friend. I am disappointed he chose to share those private thoughts publicly. I believe he is a talented filmmaker and wish him well."
In terms of the nuts and bolts of the bounty case itself, Pamphilon's essay adds nothing. It is the outpouring of a man who clearly feels wronged by those he once considered confidants, including Fujita whose behind the scenes criticism of the game stand in stark contrast to his public statements.
The debate around whether or not the NFL has an obligation to release its evidence in the bounty scandal will only get louder and louder as official grievances proceed along with a defamation lawsuit. Regardless of whether or not releasing the bounty evidence is the right thing to do, Pamphilon's essay is a preview of the treacherousness and finger-pointing that will result if the league releasing the evidence it claims to have proving the existence of the bounty program.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was one of the players suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with the recent bounty scandal. Vilma has been a vocal opponent of the decisions handed down by the league and is fighting back.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Vilma spoke publicly on Thursday for the first time since filing a defamation lawsuit against the NFL. Vilma refused to be interviewed when the league was investigating the allegations about the Saints. The reason for this, says Vilma, is that the NFL would not present any evidence.
"We asked for evidence, and he (Goodell) wouldn't give it to us," Vilma told NFL.com. "How can I defend myself when I don't know what I'm defending against? It's just logical, things that people decided to ignore."
Asked specifically if the NFL Players Association told him not to cooperate, Vilma said he asked for evidence, Goodell wouldn't share it, and he responded, "How can I defend myself if I don't know what I'm defending against?"
"There was no bounty program in place," Vilma said. "I never paid anybody, intended to pay anybody, that's the truth. Never sought out to injure people. That's the truth. That's really about it. I can't really go into detail."
A spokesperson for the NFL stated that Vilma was invited to come in with his attorney prior to the decision on suspensions in order to discuss the evidence, but Vilma declined.
Fans on their edges of their seats awaiting the next wave of activity in New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation suit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will have to wait a little longer. Tulane law professor and occasional ESPN contributor Gabe Feldman reported on Thursday afternoon that the Louisiana court where the case was filed granted Goodell a 21-day extension to respond.
The new deadline for Goodell's response in the suit is July 5, 2012.
Vilma filed a personal lawsuit against Goodell on May 17, alleging 11 counts of defamation. The complaint stems from the league's bounty investigation. Vilma claims that statements made by Goodell have damaged his reputation. In the complaint, Vilma denies his role in the bounty scandal, including the offer of $10,000 he is alleged to have made to any teammate who injured quarterback Brett Farve.
The Saints linebacker is asking for compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and interest on the damages.
Vilma was suspended for the entire season for his role in the Saints' bounty program. The NFLPA is currently appealing those suspensions through a pair of channels under the collective bargaining agreement. Vilma's suit exists outside those boundaries as an individual matter.
The NFL Players Association pleaded its case in front of arbitrator Stephen Burbank on Wednesday in Philadelphia. At issue was the matter of who has the authority to punish the players implicated in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. A decision is expected within a week.
Suspensions for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma were handed out by Roger Goodell under the auspices of player conduct. The NFLPA argued in front of the arbitrator that the payments involved in the bounty program constitute non-contract payments, which makes it a salary cap matter and therefore subject to Burbank's authority.
Goodell's authority has been a key subtext throughout the bounty scandal, as well as other skirmishes between the union and the league.
Wednesday's hearing lasted roughly 90 minutes. The NFLPA was represented by Jeffrey Kessler. Gregg Levy spoke for the NFL.
The bounty scandal revolving around the New Orleans Saints has resulted in multiple suspensions, but the NFL Players Association is still contesting the NFL-mandated ruling.
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, there will be a hearing on Wednesday to determine whether discipline stemming from the bounty scandal is truly an issue that Roger Goodell and the NFL have jurisdiction over.
On Wednesday, Special Master Stephen Burbank will take up the question of whether the Collective Bargaining Agreement diverts the entire process away from the desk of Commissioner Roger Goodell. The players contend that, to the extent the penalties arise from alleged salary cap violations, Burbank has exclusive jurisdiction over the controversy.
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post clarifies that the NFLPA feels any bounty payouts would make the scandal a salary cap issue, while the NFL maintains that this is primarily a conduct issue and the resulting suspensions have been handed out accordingly.
The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell have come under a lot of scrutiny in the wake of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. In particular, there are plenty of analysts who have taken issue with the league's doling out of penalties and suspensions without having released the evidence against the team.
NFL Communications has released a transcript of Goodell speaking at a media briefing during the 2012 Spring League Meeting on Tuesday. As part of this press conference, Goodell touched on the Saints situation and stated he expects the evidence to be released at some point.
On if there is any talk about releasing the proof of payment in Saints bounty scandal:
We released the facts back in early March. We have met with the union a couple of times. The union specifically told the players not to cooperate in the investigation. We are in the midst of challenges on a variety of fronts with respect to the process of these appeals. So as that plays out and as that is concluded how that process will go forward, we will certainly engage and make sure we are fulfilling every aspect of that; including the appeals process itself.
On if he would expect at some point the proof becomes public:
Yes, I do.
There's no indication as to what sort of timeline to expect, but at least Goodell is hopeful that the public will soon be able to read the proof of the allegations for themselves.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's decision to sue NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation took the football world by surprise on Thursday afternoon. The league sent out a brief response following the news of Vilma's lawsuit redoubling their emphasis on player safety and fair competition.
From NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello:
"We have not yet reviewed the filing. However, our commitment to player safety and the integrity of the game is our main consideration. We recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that need to be made."
Those two points have been at the center of the NFL's case since the initial release detailing the league's findings in its investigation of the Saints' bounty program.
Vilma and the other three suspended players -- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith -- are appealing their suspensions through the NFLPA via two separate grievances. An appeal heard Wednesday before arbitrator Shyam Das focuses on the question of whether or not Goodell can discipline players for actions that occurred prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. On May 30, special master Stephen Burbank will take up the NFLPA's contention that the bounties amount to a salary cap violation are are therefore subject to his jurisdiction rather than the league's.
Vilma's defamation lawsuit was filed independently, outside of the player discipline process used by the league and the Players Association.
The New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal remains in the news on Thursday as suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The lawsuit contains eleven claims related to slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here are the eleven claims Vilma set forth in his complaint:
1. Slander Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
2. Slander Per Se - injury to Professional Reputation
3. Slander Per Se - Accusations of Criminal Conduct
4. Slander by Implication
5. Slander - Reckless Disregard/Malice
6. Libel Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
7. Libel Per Se - Injury to Professional Reputation
8. Libel Per Se - Accusations of Criminal Conduct
9. Libel by Implication
10. Libel - Reckless Disregard/Malice
11. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Just to clarify, generally speaking, slander applies to spoken word, while libel deals with the written and published word. There are a variety of distinctions that can be made depending on the circumstance, but that is the basic difference for the purposes of this lawsuit.
In the background section, Vilma describes the numerous statements Goodell made in discussing the bounty scandal and pointing to Vilma directly by name, or by implication when discussing Vilma in terms of one of the "leaders among defensive players."
Vilma's complaint then goes on to describe all of these statements to be made based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence at best, and lies at worst. Furthermore, throughout the eleven claims for relief, Vilma states that Goodell made these statements with no reasonable ground for believing their truth and in fact made them with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity and/or with outright malice.
Vilma uses the allegations to deny any involvement in a bounty program. In paragraph 35, Vilma denies establishing or assisting in establishing a bounty program. In paragraphs 36 through 38, he denies pledging, receiving or making payments for various hits. He denies targeting opposing players in any way that would violate NFL rules and denies getting involved in any program that could potentially injure players.
Each of the first ten complaints is meant to cover the numerous statements Roger Goodell made on the issue, with each statement constitution a form of defamation. The final claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress claims that Goodell's conduct was extreme and outrageous, it caused Vilma to suffer severe emotional distress, and Goodell knew and intended that Vilma would suffer severe emotional distress as a result of his Statements and conduct.
The strongest defense against a defamation lawsuit is the truth. If the NFL has sufficient evidence on hand, a simple release would be enough to get this lawsuit dismissed, or at least make for an easy victory in front of a jury. The NFLPA has voiced numerous complaints about the league refusing to turn over their evidence in the bounty scandal.
This lawsuit would seem to be meant in large part as a weapon for getting more evidence released. There have been reports the league will consider releasing some of the evidence, and this might further force their hand. At the same time, the vehement denials by Jonathan Vilma, which are now officially on the record in the Louisiana court system, will leave us wondering how this will play out if and when more evidence comes to light.
The New Orleans Saints Bounty scandal is officially entering the courtroom. Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell featuring eleven separate claims for relief.
According to the complaint (PDF), is seeking to recover damages for comments made by Goodell in which, while speaking publicly about Saints executives, coaches and players, "in relation to the Bounty scandal in relation to purported efforts designed to injure opposing players, made public statements concerning Vilma which were false, defamatory and injurious to Vilma’s professional and personal reputation."
Vilma is asking for compensatory damages, punitives damages, attorneys fees and interest on the damages.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of Wednesday's news that the NFL would consider releasing some of the evidence in the case. The NFLPA's primary complaint about the league handling of the Bounty scandal has been related to its reported lack of full disclosure of evidence and this suit includes that accusation.
The NFLPA has claimed a right to view this evidence in their attempts to protect their membership. Although the union wants to protect any players injured due to the reported Bounty scandal, they also owe a fiduciary duty to the accused players given that they are also union members. This lawsuit may be the quickest way to force the league's hand in turning over evidence.
On Wednesday, arbitrator Shyam Das will hear appeals on behalf of four players suspended for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty program. One point of contention from the NFL Players Association and the players themselves has centered on the league's evidence in the case, which they claim has not been fully shared as part of the due process in the matter. The New York Times reports that the NFL may decide to release some of its evidence in the case once the appeal process has concluded.
Whatever evidence the league does eventually release is likely to be heavily redacted in order to protect sources who provided testimony implicating players and coaches involved in the Saints' pay-for-performance program that ran from 2009 through 2011, according to the NFL's report.
The Players Association has argued that the players have yet to see any "specific, detailed" evidence of player participation. Damage to the reputation of players involved has also been cited as a reason to release the evidence.
The NFL maintains that releasing the evidence could bring retaliation to sources interviewed in the process. Taking away the availability of sources to remain anonymous could compromise future investigations, says the league.
Jonathan Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsburg, called the league's desire to protect anonymous sources "an excuse." Ginsburg submitted a written request for all documentation related to his client's role in the matter. The collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 allows the NFL to use confidential sources of information in investigations like this one.
The New Orleans Saints were hit hard by the NFL for violation of policies surrounding the "Bountygate" scandal. Not least of which was the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for the entirety of the 2012 season.
Jeff Dunacan of the Times-Picayune reports that although Payton is not allowed to be with the team this year, the Saints will be attempting to make his presence still be felt any way they can.
Nevertheless, while Payton will be physically absent from the Saints' day-to-day operations, team officials have ensured he'll be with them in spirit. To honor their absent leader, team officials have purposefully left vacant the chairs in the draft room and team meeting rooms. They'll do the same with his seats on the team bus and plane during the season.
It's not clear how much impact this symbolic gesture will have on the team, but it certainly gets the message across in protest of the league's ruling, if nothing else.
For all news and information regarding the New Orleans Saints, please visit Canal Street Chronicles.
The question of who has the authority to discipline the New Orleans Saints players in the bounty case will go to an arbitrator on Wednesday. Shyam Das, who overturned Ryan Braun's suspension and was recently fired by MLB, will hear the case. His status with MLB does not affect this hearing.
The question in this hearing is whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline the Saints players.
The union claims NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't have the authority to hand out discipline for player conduct that occurred before the current collective bargaining agreement was finalized last August. The players argue that a CBA arbitrator, and not Goodell, has the right to decide player punishment under such circumstances, as well as rule on any appeals.
The players main argument continues to be that they have not been given sufficient evidence that proves their guilt.
The four players suspended in the case have filed appeals. The NFLPA argues that Stephen Burbank, and not Goodell, should hear those appeals.
In an editorial for USA Today on Wednesday, NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth pushed back against the league, saying that the NFL didn't give "fair and transparent due process" for the four players suspended in the wake of the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. Foxworth pointed out the NFLPA's history of championing safety, and he challenged the league to bring forth evidence that the suspended players actively participated in a pay-to-injure program.
It's a cruel insult to conclude that we would place hundreds of NFL athletes who play by the rules at risk in order to protect a handful of players proven guilty of literally gambling with the safety and livelihoods of others. Players have seen no specific, detailed evidence of player participation in a pay-to-injure program. We know a coach crossed the line, but where is the evidence that any players actually committed themselves financially or tactically to carrying out a "bounty" program?
All four players tagged with suspensions by commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL -- Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- have already appealed their decisions. Whether the arguments of the players and the NFLPA will actually fall on attentive ears in the NFL front offices is another question.
For more on the fallout out from the Gregg Williams' bounty program, keep it tuned to this StoryStream.
Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove issued a signed declaration to the NFL that said coaches, including assistant head coach Joe Vitt, told him to lie about the bounty program that was allegedly established in New Orleans. Technically, Hargrove never admitted guilt -- he just said he was told to lie if asked about a bounty program.
Vitt, one of the Saints coaches named in Hargrove's signed declaration, strongly denied that he told Hargrove to lie. Per the Times-Picayune:
"At no time did I ever tell Anthony Hargrove to lie or deny the existence (of the alleged bounty program)," Vitt said. "He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn't happen."
Vitt claims that what the league calls a "bounty" program was really a "pay-for-performance" program.
"We had a pot for big plays, the same thing everyone else in the league has, now they call them pay-for-performance. But we never paid for dirty hits," Vitt said. "I'll say it again, the exact same thing I told the commissioner, our players never crossed the white lines with an intent to maim or injure. They never threatened the integrity of the game when they crossed the white lines."
Vitt has already been punished, so this is really a minor point for him at this point.
Jonathan Vilma and three other players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have filed appeals with the NFL. Vilma has appealed his suspension while the three others filed a "Reservation of Rights" essentially saving their right to appeal if it is shown that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is the one who has the authority to suspend the players.
One of the players involved, Anthony Hargrove, who was previously with the Saints and now a member of the Green Bay Packers, submitted last month a signed declaration indicating that his coaches, Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt, told him to lie and "play dumb" if NFL Security asks him about the bounty program. Hargrove's declaration indicates that he was told to lie if asked about the bounty program, but he never explicitly says that there was a bounty program (if that makes sense).
Williams said he was going to deny the existence of any bounty on any player in the NFL, and I should deny it, too. Coach Vitt also said he was going to deny the existence of any bounties. Coach Williams said: "Those motherf-ckers [the NFL] have been trying to get me for years," and if we all "stay on the same page, this will blow over."
They told me that when the NFL asked me about any bounty or bounty program, I should "just play dumb."
This definitely did not "blow over", as we've seen in the last two months. Williams' role in the scandal has landed him an indefinite suspension, which he did not appeal.
That a coach was telling him to "play dumb" isn't a good look for the NFL. That said, the signed declaration from Hargrove results in Hargrove admitting to the existence of a bounty program in the Saints organization, which could make the appeals of the other players more difficult to win.
Is Hargrove's signed declaration worse for him or for Williams who, according to Hargrove, coerced him to lie to NFL investigators?
All four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal have appealed their suspensions. It was previously reported that Jonathan Vilma appealed his season long suspension, but now news comes down that three other players involved have filed appeals as well.
Anthony Hargrove, who has since signed with the Green Bay Packers, has appealed his eight game suspension. Hargrove's ban was the second longest of the four, behind Vilma's season long suspension. Will Smith, who is still with the Saints, and Scott Fujita, who has since signed with the Browns, appealed their four and three game suspensions, respectively.
There isn't a known timetable on the appeals. The non-player suspensions, including Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, were expedited.
If the appeals were brought by Roger Goodell, and he's the one hearing the appeals, how likely is it that any of them are overturned?
For more analysis of the Saints case, check out this video from SB Nation's YouTube channel.
Jonathan Vilma has appealed his year long suspension from the NFL for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Vilma has appealed his suspension, which is just the latest update in a story that likely won't be going away anytime soon.
That Vilma appealed his suspension isn't a surprise. It's what we expected after he released a statement indicating his intention to fight the allegations against him.
This is the first step in resolving what appears to be a potentially lengthy process, as the NFL and NFLPA continue to disagree about a number of aspects involved in the case.
The NFLPA has challenged the authority of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discipline the players, and the NFL clearly disagrees with the NFLPA's take. The NFLPA has filed a grievance to resolve the case, but the NFL feels confident it will win that.
The NFLPA is in a tough spot, because it needs to defend players who are alleged to be trying to injure other players. They represent the players alleged in the bounty scandal, and the players who were targeted in the bounty scandal.
Is there a solution in this case that you can see?
For more analysis of the Saints case, check out this video from SB Nation's YouTube channel.
The disagreement between the NFL and NFLPA regarding the punishments in the New Orleans Saints bounty program doesn't seem to be going anywhere for a while. The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL claiming that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who levied the suspensions, didn't have the authority to do so. And the NFLPA also argues that the NFL agreed to release the players of pre-CBA conduct.
As expected, the NFL disagrees and predicts their position will be upheld. The NFL's statement says that the NFLPA does "not challenge the underlying facts" or the "reasonableness" of the Commissioner's discipline on the four former or current Saints players. From the NFL's statement:
In one proceeding, the union seeks immunity for the four suspended players, a position it never advanced during months of discussion on this matter. In the other, the union argues that someone other than the commissioner should have imposed the discipline.
We expect that the arbitrators will 1) reject the union's efforts to protect players from accountability for prohibited and dangerous conduct directed against other players and 2) uphold the disciplinary process that was so carefully negotiated in the Collective Bargaining less than a year ago.
The NFL makes a good point about the NFLPA's interpretation of the CBA -- you'd think the NFLPA would push that argument in previous discussions if it were a position they held. With that said, that they didn't advance that argument doesn't make it an invalid argument.
I think we can reasonably assume this story won't be going away for a while.
Which side do you have in the disagreement? Check out the NFLPA's side here.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down player discipline in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, suspended two Saints players and two former Saints players. The harshest suspension goes to Jonathan Vilma, who has been banned for the season.
The NFLPA, which represents the players, is making an argument, naturally, on behalf of the players. The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL following the suspensions, according to Pro Player Insiders. The grievance centers on Goodell's authority to suspend the players.
In the filings, the NFLPA argues that the punishments issued to the players for their alleged actions "violated the [league's] duty of fairness to the players" because the process violated various procedural requirements of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, including limits on Goodell's authority over the matter and failure to disclosure sufficient evidence of the violations.
Basically what the NFLPA is saying here is that Goodell never had the authority to suspend the players in the first place for these actions. That should go to the System Arbitrator.
In connection with entering into the 2011 CBA, the NFL agreed to release players of all pre-CBA conduct, which would mean that only events during the 2011 season could even be considered. The NFLPA's grievance filing states that Goodell is "prohibited from punishing NFL players for any aspect of the ‘pay-for-performance/bounty' conduct occurring before August 4, 2011."
That's an interesting point because Goodell's decision is based on three years of evidence.
For more analysis of the Saints case, check out this video from SB Nation's YouTube channel.
The player punishments in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal are in and they're as surprising as the suspensions handed out to GM Mickey Loomis and coaches Sean Payton and Joe Vitt. Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the entire season and Will Smith is out for four games. Former Saints Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita were suspended eight and three games, respectively.
SB Nation's Brad Wells notes in our latest YouTube offering that replacing those suspended Saints players will be difficult, but not impossible. Vilma was already starting to break down last year, and the Saints acquired Curtis Lofton in free agency. Smith, only suspended four games, will be eligible for the final 12 of the season.
Check out SB Nation on YouTube for the complete analysis of the the Saints player punishments.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended two New Orleans Saints players and two former Saints players for their role in the bounty scandal. The NFLPA has responded indicating that they plan to fight the suspensions, citing a lack of evidence that the players were involved in the bounty program unearthed by the league's investigation.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was hit the hardest of the four players disciplined with a full season ban from the game. Vilma found out about the news while watching SportsCenter, his teammate Chase Daniel tweeted, and in a statement released on Wednesday, Vilma sounds ready to appeal the suspensions. (The statement was released in all caps.)
"I INTEND TO FIGHT THIS INJUSTICE, TO DEFEND MY REPUTATION, TO STAND UP FOR MY TEAM AND MY PROFESSION AND TO SEND A CLEAR SIGNAL TO THE COMMISSIONER THAT THE PROCESS HAS FAILED, TO THE DETRIMENT OF ME, MY TEAMMATES, THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AND THE GAME."
The NFL announced the suspension of four players on Wednesday for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty program. Reaction from players and the NFLPA has raised concerns over the due process afforded Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma in their punishment.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham took to Twitter after the news broke to decry the process.
This is beyond ridiculous! I want to see the evidence and hear an explanation. Its sad when u have to hear about it on tv. Ridiculous!— Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) May 2, 2012
At least one player reportedly learned of his suspension in the media. According to Saints quarterback Chase Daniel, who was with Vilma, he heard the news via SportsCenter.
Last Wednesday at the NFLPA Rookie Debut event, George Atallah, assistant executive director for external affairs at the NFLPA, spoke about the importance of due process related to the bounty investigation.
Asked if the league had been forthcoming about the players under investigation for their alleged participation in the bounty program, Atallah replied, "not as open as we'd like them to be."
"You've heard me say repeatedly, you've heard [NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith] say repeatedly, and you've heard members of our executive committee say repeatedly, that if they are alleging somehing as serious as they are, each individual player should have the ability to understand what evidence there is against them," Atallah said. "That's what happens in the quote-unquote real world, that's what we believe should happen in this world."
Fan reaction at Canal Street Chronicles, SB Nation's Saints site, saw the punishments as "harsh."
The NFLPA told SB Nation that the organization will not be making any additional comment concerning the matter.
"After seeing the NFL's decision letters, the NFLPA has still not received any detailed or specific evidence from the league of these specific players' involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program. We have made it clear that punishment without evidence is not fair. We have spoken with our players and their representatives and we will vigorously protect and pursue all options on their behalf."
Four NFL players were suspended multiple games for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Two current Saints players, Jonathan Vilma (one year) and Will Smith (four games), were suspended. Two former Saints players, Anthony Hargrove (eight games), who is now with the Green Bay Packers, and Scott Fujita (three games), who is now with the Cleveland Browns, were also suspended by the league.
According to several reports. all four players plan to appeal the suspensions with an assist from the NFLPA. ESPN's Adam Schefter quotes a source who says: "Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts."
Vilma was reportedly bracing for a 2-8 game suspension, but he was banned for the entire year, so it's a reasonable assumption that the players are surprised at the length of their suspensions.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is the one that levied the discipline, will also hear the appeals. It's also possible the Saints players use other legal maneuvers, like federal court, to appeal their suspensions.
In the NFL's initial announcement of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, it was reported that as many as 27 players were involved in the program in some way. On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended just four players for their roles in the bounty program.
Jonathan Vilma was suspended one full season, Anthony Hargrove (now with the Packers) received an eight-game ban, Will Smith was suspended four games and Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) was suspended three games.
So how does the NFL get from as many as 27 players involved in the program to just four of them facing discipline? Goodell explained the process of applying player discipline in the league's statement announcing the suspensions.
"In assessing player discipline," Commissioner Goodell said, "I focused on players who were in leadership positions at the Saints; contributed a particularly large sum of money toward the program; specifically contributed to a bounty on an opposing player; demonstrated a clear intent to participate in a program that potentially injured opposing players; sought rewards for doing so; and/or obstructed the 2010 investigation."
Vilma was a leader in New Orleans as the defensive captain. He also contributed "large sums" of money and contributed to a bounty on a specific player in both Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Smith and Fujita were reported to have also contributed significant sums of money.
Hargrove acknowledged via a written statement to the league the existence of the program. No player agreed to be interviewed in person by the Commissioner, the NFL's statement said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday that four players have been suspended for their role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal that was unearthed by an NFL investigation. Jonathan Vilma had the harshest discipline enacted, getting a full season suspension. Anthony Hargrove, now a member of the Green Bay Packers, has been suspended eight games while Will Smith was hit with a four-game ban and Scott Fujita a three-game suspension.
Vilma's suspension starts immediately and he can not participate in any more activities with the Saints.
The league's statement indicates that the three other players can still participate in team activities through the preseason.
Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith may participate in all off-season activity, including preseason games, prior to the suspensions taking effect. Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days. If an appeal is filed, Commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.
Because these suspensions are "conduct detrimental" to the league, Goodell will be the one who hears the appeals, the same guy that originally handed down the suspensions. In other words, an appeal isn't likely to be successful barring any new information.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was expected to levy punishments on Wednesday against the players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and that's what he did, announcing suspensions for several players.
The suspensions are without pay and considered "conduct detrimental" to the league.
Vilma was identified in the league's investigation as offering up a $10,000 reward for knocking Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship game and doing the same to Kurt Warner a week before. The league's statement said that Vilma, a captain of the defense, "assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding" the bounty program.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions. The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty --$10,000 in cash - to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.
Smith was "featured prominently" in the league's investigation and contributed "significant sums" to the program.
Will Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 regular season. Smith, a defensive end, assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for "cart-offs" and "knockouts" of opposing players.
Hargove, who has since signed with the Green Bay Packers, admitted to the league that he knew about and participated in the bounty program.
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.
Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, is a member of the NFLPA's executive board and pledged a "significant amount of money" to the program.
Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) is suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2012 regular season. The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for "cart-offs" and "knockouts," plays during which an opposing player was injured.
The argument from the players perspective is that they were simply doing what they were told from the coaching staff. That argument is undermined slightly from the league's findings that Vilma and other players helped establish and maintain the program.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already issued penalties to the coaches and others members of the New Orleans Saints organization involved in the bounty scandal. Head coach Sean Payton is gone for the year, assistant coach Joe Vitt is out for six games and GM Mickey Loomis has also been suspended for half a season, while former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
The players involved in the case have yet to be punished but, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Commissioner is expected to hand down those player punishments on Wednesday.
Jonathan Vilma is one player named in the bounty scandal after he allegedly offered up a $10,000 bounty before the 2010 NFC Championship game for whoever could knock Brett Favre out of the game. In that game, there were penalties for questionable hits on Favre.
Previous reports stated that Vilma was bracing for a 2-8 game suspension.
Complicating matters is that another Saints player, Scott Fujita, was also on the NFLPA's executive committee when the players were pushing for more safety measures in the latest CBA.
The NFL suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for a full year for his role in the bounty program. Obviously Payton cannot coach the team during the 2012 NFL season, but he also cannot have any contact with the organization, coaches or players while serving his suspension according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Under the terms of his season-long suspension for his role in New Orleans' bounty program, coach Sean Payton is not allowed to have any contact with the Saints organization or anyone around the NFL, and if he does, must report it to league executive Ray Anderson, a source familiar with the suspension tells ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Payton can't even speak with anyone employed with the NFL, or as Schefter mentions, he must report it to a league executive. This means that Payton can't even say hello to suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis if they happen upon each other while at their beach houses in Florida, which are about a mile apart according to Schefter.
It was determined by the NFL's investigation that Payton lied about his knowledge and involvement in the bounty program, so the penalty for Payton was the most harsh.
The New Orleans Saints coaches and front office staff have been penalized for their roles in the bounty situation, but now the NFL is going to begin investigating the actual players involved. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is bracing for a suspension and was the only player named, but according to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, two other Saints players may be facing harsh penalties.
Harper and Smith were probed in depth and could end up facing more severe discipline than the majority of the players whom the league believes were active in the program. The NFL's report indicated 22 to 27 players were involved during the three years the Saints' defense was investigated.
Safety Roman Harper and defensive end Will Smith could find themselves with Vilma in being suspended. Not only will the Saints be without a portion of their coaching staff, but it looks like it's possible the Saints could also be without at least three of their starting defensive players for a portion of the season.
Drew Brees and former New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita are meeting with the NFL on Monday to discuss the team's bounty program under Gregg Williams, an anonymous source told the Associated Press. The two are joined by DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players' Association.
How much more information will be revealed remains to be seen, as the meetings were not supposed to be made known to the public. Commissioner Roger Goodell will reportedly hand out punishments soon to individual players who took part in the program. According to reports, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is already bracing for a two to eight game suspension.
Brees and Fujita are both members of the NFLPA's executive committee, as well as key leaders of the team when the bounty pool grew as large as $50,000 during the Saints' 2009 run to a Super Bowl victory.
The suspensions for the coaching staff and other front offices members involved in the New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal have already been handed down and now the NFL will move to some of the Saints players that were more heavily involved. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is the only player who was named in the information released to the public, and is bracing for a potential suspension from the NFL during the 2012 season, according to a report by Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network.
Jonathan Vilma is bracing for a suspension between two to eight games, according to sources who have been in contact with the New Orleans Saints linebacker.
It will be a hit to the Saints defense if Vilma is out for the full eight games of the season. According to LaCanfora, a decision on the length of Vilma's suspension is expected prior to the NFL Draft on April 26.
For more, visit SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles.
The NFL's investigation into the New Orleans Saints bounty program has resulted in suspensions for Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, assistant coach Joe Vitt and other disciplinary measures to the Saints organization, including a fine and loss of draft picks.
Yet to be disciplined in the case is any of the players involved. It's believed that there will be some sort of discipline but the NFLPA, which represents the players, released a statement on the Gregg Williams audio and indicated that the NFL has yet to provide them with evidence of player misconduct in the case.
The NFLPA was aware of the existence of the Gregg Williams audio prior to its release. We learned of the tape as part of our effort to obtain any and all information related to an alleged pay-to-injure scheme. We had no control of the content and did not make a determination on the method of its release. To date, the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of such a program.
Thus, players have not been disciplined. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated he will discuss the case with the NFLPA before levying punishments. The NFLPA has said they want to do their own investigation and, judging by the statement above, they're still seeking information from the league about the bounty program as it relates to the players involvement.
For more, visit SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles.
The New Orleans Saints on Thursday officially announced that assistant head coach Joe Vitt will become the interim coach while Sean Payton is suspended for the entire 2012 season. The question that move immediately brought was who would become the next interim coach for Vitt, who is suspended the first six games of the season.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is expected to become the interim head coach in Vitt's six-game absence. Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was also considered a possibility.
So Payton, who is suspended for the year, will be replaced by Vitt, who is suspended for six games. That announcement was made by GM Mickey Loomis, who is suspended for eight games. Vitt will be replaced by Kromer who, as far as we know, has not been suspended.
Quite the mess the Saints have themselves in, isn't it? We haven't even gotten to the player suspensions yet (if there will even be any). It sets up a situation in which the Saints could line up in Week 1 down to their third head coach and a number of defensive players suspended.
For more, visit SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles.
The New Orleans Saints have officially announced their plans to replace head coach Sean Payton during his season-long suspension. Joe Vitt, the team's assistant head coach, will serve as the interim head coach during the 2012 season, the Saints announced in a press release on Thursday.
Vitt was the acting head coach last season when Payton went down with a knee injury. He was the favorite to land the interim job, so this move doesn't come as a surprise.
GM Mickey Loomis, who is also suspended for half the season, made the announcement.
"But we need to set a course of action that gives us the best chance to win this season without our head coach, and that is why I am announcing today that Joe Vitt will assume Sean's duties. We considered a number of great options to handle Payton's duties both internally and externally, but believe this will provide the most seamless transition for our players and our coaching staff, allowing our offensive and defensive staffs to remain intact with the fewest changes. This is the same structure we used last season during Sean's knee injury."
One of the big obstacles with this move is that Vitt has also been suspended as a result of the bounty scandal. He'll be out the first six games of the regular season with his suspension officially starting after the preseason is over. Loomis said they will have a plan to replace Vitt when that time comes.
"We will work through the offseason under this plan and when we get to training camp we will decide on a course of action for the first six weeks of the season, while Joe Vitt is unavailable. We are fortunate to have a great veteran coaching staff well equipped to handle this challenge."
Among the candidates who could be the interim to the interim is offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
In the NFL, an interim coach is someone who replaces the head coach for a brief period of time. But what do you call a coach who replaces an interim coach? We could soon be finding out the answer to that question. ESPN has already reported that Bill Parcells will not be the New Orleans Saints interim coach when Sean Payton's suspension begins later this month. ESPN's Adam Schefter says it's "looking more and more like" Saints assistant head coach, Joe Vitt, is the favorite to be the interim coach of the Saints in Payton's absence.
The only problem with that? Vitt was caught up in the Saints bounty scandal, too, and he's suspended the first six games. So choosing him as interim coach would mean the Saints would also need another interim coach for the first six games of the season.
Vitt's suspension doesn't start until after the preseason, which means he can coach through the offseason when Payton is gone. But, still, it seems almost unnecessary to have multiple interim coaches. In the event Vitt is the interim coach, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael seems like a logical choice as the interim to the interim in Vitt's absence.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton appealed his season-long suspension this week and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denied the appeal, which means the Saints now need an interim coach. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, that interim coach will not be Bill Parcells.
Shortly after the Saints punishment was announced, reports surfaced that Payton had talked to Parcells about taking the job. Judging by what each side said, it seemed like Parcells coaching the Saints for one season was a legitimate possibility, but that apparently won't be happening anymore.
Perhaps one of the reasons Parcells opted not to take the job is that his five-year clock to be admitted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame would have been reset, meaning he'd have to wait another five years to be eligible again. Parcells was a finalist for the Hall of Fame earlier this year but did not get in. It's previously been reported that resetting the clock on his Hall of Fame bid would be a big factor in whether or not he coaches the Saints.
Peter King of SI.com reports that, with Parcells unlikely to be the interim coach, it's looking more and more likely that the Saints interim coach will come from within.
Last week the NFL heard appeals from members of the New Orleans Saints including head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt. The appeals weren't expected to be successful considering NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is the one who initially filed the discipline and the one who heard the appeals.
According to an NFL statement, Goodell will not reduce the suspensions for those involved. For Payton, that's one full season. Loomis received eight games and Vitt received six games. The Saints organization was docked two second round picks and fined $500,000.
Payton's suspension, originally scheduled for early April, will now start on April 16, which is exactly one week away. There are likely in-house candidates to replace Payton for the season. Bill Parcells has also been considered, though it's unclear where the Saints stand on possibly using him as an interim coach.
The suspensions for Loomis and Vitt start at the end of the preseason.
One bit of good news for the Saints is that the financial penalties -- the fines -- could be reduced. The Saints organization itself was fined $500,000 in light of the bounty scandal. Others were suspended without pay. For Payton, that's the loss of several million dollars in salary. It's unclear when Goodell will decide on the financial penalties.
The NFL's statement says Goodell will review the status of each of those involved at the conclusion of their suspensions to determine their reinstatement status.
Gregg Williams, former Saints defensive coordinator, is still suspended indefinitely.
Last week, the NFL heard the appeals from New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis regarding their discipline stemming from the bounty scandal. It was believed that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would rule quickly on the appeals. On the same day the appeals were heard by Goodell, audio became public of Gregg Williams addressing the Saints' defense the night before the 49ers playoff game.
We all know by now what Williams said and the reaction to all of it. Put simply, it's not good. And it likely didn't help Payton and Loomis in the appeals process. Peter King of SI.com writes in MMQB that, ultimately, Payton and Loomis likely won't see a reversal in their suspensions.
As for the Saints, while some will think the audio tape will isolate Williams as a rogue coach, I feel strongly that's not how Goodell viewed it. Look at Goodell's prior statements and rulings here. He blames Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis for enabling a three-year pattern of this renegade defensive behavior. Goodell heard the tape and I can bet he thought: We warned them, and we told them to make sure this has stopped, and here it is, at the end of the third season, two full years after we were assured this wasn't going on anymore, and here's the defensive coach telling his players to aim for Frank Gore's head and Michael Crabtree's knee. Absolutely, totally unacceptable.
I agree with this. There was the theory that Payton, Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt, who also appealed his case, would blame Williams as a "rogue" coach who didin't listen to Payton, Loomis and others telling him to stop.
As King notes, that theory isn't likely to fly considering Payton and Loomis are ultimately responsible for those under them. That goes for Vitt, as well, who is the linebackers coach and should have known what was going on.
Calls for former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to receive a lifetime ban from the NFL reached a fever pitch this week after audio surfaced of his now infamous "kill the head" speech prior to a January playoff game against the 49ers. One former NFL player, a target of the Saints' bounty program no less, says that Williams deserves a second chance.
Kurt Warner tweeted this message on Saturday:
All this talk about Gregg Williams receiving a "LIFETIME" ban from NFL... I disagree, we all deserve a 2nd chance! What r ur thoughts? #fb— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) April 7, 2012
When a follower noted that Williams had a second chance when the league warned the Saints, Warner stuck to his belief:
@Garylendsmoney A continuation of mistake... Guys that have gone 2 prison? Failed multiple drug test? Taped practices? All got 2nd chance!— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) April 7, 2012
Warner's stance on the matter is not a complete surprise. Like many players, Warner is open about his faith. Unlike many players who where that faith on their sleeve, Warner's actions have always been consistent with his beliefs.
Whether the NFL feels the same way is another matter entirely.
Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon sent shock waves through the NFL world on Thursday with his decision to release audio of New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' profanity laced rant to his players prior to a January playoff game against the 49ers. In an interesting new wrinkle, Steve Gleason, the subject of Pamphilon's work, released a statement on his website on Friday that said Pamphilon was not authorized to release the audio clip of Williams' rant.
From Gleason's statement:
"Sean Pamphilon and I have an agreement that all recordings ultimately belong to me and my family, Gleason said. "Nothing can be released without my explicit approval. I did not authorize the public release of any recordings."
Gleason, a former Saints player, and his struggle with ALS is the subject of the recordings captured by Pamphilon. Gleason began to chronicle his and his family's dealings with the disease, and was approached by Pamphilon in the spring of 2011 to "further document" their life.
The Saints have included Gleason in their team culture, on the field and inside the locker room. They also allowed Gleason to bring Pamphilon with him in those activities.
"The Saints trusted me and gave us unlimited access in filing, and I, in turn, trusted Sean Pamphilon."
In the statement, Gleason expressed his disappointment in Pamphilon releasing the recordings. Pamphilon originally shared them with Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports. Gleason says he will continue his project. He does not explicitly state whether or not Pamphilon will be part of that effort.
As for Gregg Williams, the damage is done. Nothing can remove Pamphilon's, or Gleason's as it were, recordings from the public consciousness.
While most of the NFL media is talking about Gregg Williams and the audio tape of his speech to the Saints defense the night before the playoff game against the 49ers last January, several members of the Saints and their coaching staff met with the NFL to appeal the suspensions handed down by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was spotted exiting NFL headquarters on Friday afternoon. No details of his appeal with Goodell have been reported.
Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt, who was suspended six games, met with Goodell and others. His lawyer, David Cornwell, issued a statement.
"Coach Joe Vitt and I met today with Commissioner Goodell, Jeff Pash, Adolpho Birch, and NFL security for about an hour and a half. Coach Vitt wanted to meet face to face with the Commissioner to take full responsibility for certain matters while taking the opportunity to make clear that despite inflammatory language and irresponsible conduct, New Orleans Saints' coaches did not coach and Saints' players did not play to injure their opponents. We thought the discussion was productive and informative - so, we achieved our objective."
Apparently, Vitt's defense will include the notion that Williams went "rogue", according to NFL.com. Cornwell said in the NFL.com report that the audio tape of Williams, which was released only hours before the appeals, were one of several examples of Williams acting on his own, despite warnings from Payton and others.
So why exactly did Gregg Williams openly talk about injuring 49ers players while he was being recorded?
Because he didn't think the audio would ever get out.
A source told PFT's Mike Florio that Gleason, who has been diagnosed with ALS, had joined up with Pamphilon to make private recordings that could some day be given to Gleason's son, so that he could get to know his dad after he was no longer alive. Gleason plans to issue a statement saying that Pamphilon was not authorized to publicize what he recorded.
That answers the question of why Williams would say something like that while he was being recorded -- he didn't think it would be revealed publicly. Of course, that doesn't justify it. He still said those things and it still reflects poorly on him, Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints organization, particularly in light of the league's warning before that playoff game.
The filmmaker who recorded Williams' speech the night before the Saints playoff game against the 49ers, Sean Pamphilon, posted at his website his experience following the Saints, and also provided this statement to The Times-Picayune on his decision to release the audio to the public:
"If this story hadn't broken and been made public, I would not have shared this. I would not have compromised my personal relationships and risked damaging Steve Gleason's relationship with the Saints. I would have crafted these words and sentiments for another forum, perhaps years down the road.
"If it weren't for the fact I feel deeply that parents of children playing football MUST pay attention to the influence of men who will sacrifice their kids for W's, I would not have written this.
"Some will call me releasing this audio for fame or money grab. True haters will call it exploitation.
"People of character and conscience call it was it is: tru."
Somehow, the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is getting worse.
Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon is working on a documentary about former Saint Steve Gleason, who has ALS. Part of the filmmaking process apparently included plenty of access to the Saints, including a speech from Williams on the night before the January 2012 playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. In that speech, Williams encouraged injury on multiple 49ers players, including QB Alex Smith. He didn't just encourage injury -- he explained precisely what the Saints defense should do to injure those 49ers players -- "Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head ... continue to touch and affect the head," Williams said of Smith -- and insinuated a cash payment for doing so.
Judging by the context in the story initially reported by Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports, the NFL may not have known about this audio before suspending head coach Sean Payton for a year, and Williams indefinitely.
We've read the NFL's investigation but this is the smoking gun, so to speak. Saints defensive players in that room can not deny that Williams ever encouraged injury on opposing players. It's all right there.
Some players, like Rock Cartwright, a former Redskin with Williams who recently signed with the 49ers, don't think this is such a big deal. "[T]hat type of stuff is said all the time," Cartwright tweeted. "I've been playing for 10 [years] in this game. Last I checked, football is a violent sport."
Therein lies the problem -- that players think this is normal. That players think things like this are normal and acceptable is part of the reason NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued such a harsh punishment. He wanted to send a message so strong that the culture of the NFL would change.
What makes this even more unbelievable is that the NFL's investigation of the Saints included a passage that indicated the league told the Saints before that playoff game that the investigation was back on. Because of that, I wonder if this is the evidence that will ultimately keep Williams out of the NFL forever.
Several members of the Saints, including Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt, are meeting with Goodell on Thursday to appeal their punishments for their role (or lack thereof) in the Saints bounty scandal.
How do you think the appeal will go now that Goodell has heard this audio of Williams?
As the NFL offices are set to hear the appeal of New Orleans Saints coaches and players, audio has surfaced of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving a speech for the Saints playoff matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The audio was captured by documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who directed "Run Ricky Run" for ESPN, as Pamphilon is filming a documentary on former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is suffering from ALS.
Pamphilon passed along the audio to Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports and also uploaded some of the audio recording to YouTube.
Said Pamphilon: "At one point Williams says, ‘We hit [expletive] Smith right there' - then he points under his chin [and continues] - ‘remember me.' Then he rubs his thumb against his index and middle fingers - the cash sign - and says, ‘I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that [expletive] out.'
Fair warning, the audio is graphic and contains language.
Williams talks about "taking out the head" and testing players for concussions. Oddly enough, it was the 49ers defense knocking Saints players out of the game, including knocking out running back Pierre Thomas early in the game.
The biggest problem with Gregg Williams in this isn't necessarily what he says in particular, but the fact that Pamphilon notes that Williams makes the hand motion for cash when talking about taking out quarterback Alex Smith, insinuating a cash reward for doing so.
Representatives from the NFL and NFLPA are meeting in New York on Monday to discuss the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Players have yet to be disciplined in the case and the NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith tells Pro Player Insiders that they want to be given an opportunity to see the full evidence before the NFL makes a decision on discipline.
"Our duty is to view and understand the evidence and to ensure it is substantiated and concrete. We also have an obligation to ensure that our players have fair due process. It is not our duty to give recommendations for discipline in a vacuum without information or without consultation with our players. It seems as if this entire matter has played out primarily in public, with regard for the fairness of the process an afterthought.
"Our team will meet with the NFL today, ask hard questions and will expect to see all documents and direct evidence of a pay-to-injure scheme. That is what a fair process dictates. I will get a full briefing by our team and after that, the next step will be to consult with players about what was learned. Only then will we confer with the NFL."
Really, though, the NFL makes the final decision. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the original ruling and he's also going to hear the appeals. The NFLPA obviously represents the players interests.
For more on the NFL, check out SB Nation's YouTube page.
When several members of the New Orleans Saints, including head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis, decided to appeal their punishments for the bounty scandal, many figured it was simply to buy themselves more time in order to get their ducks in a row before the suspensions take effect. If that's the case, they won't be buying much time. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Darren Rovell of CNBC that a decision on the appeals from the Saints will likely come by the end of the week.
The deadline to appeal is Monday. Payton and Loomis have both appealed their suspensions, as have the Saints organization, who were docked two draft picks and fined $500,000. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has, at this moment, opted not to appeal his indefinite suspension.
Goodell's decision shouldn't take long considering the Saints likely don't have much new evidence to present. Goodell is the one who handed down the original ruling and he's the one who will be hearing the appeal, so the thinking is that the appeals won't do any good.
But the appeal will give Payton a few more days until he's officially suspended. That might be enough time to lure an interim coach, such as Bill Parcells.
There appears to be an outside chance that the players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal could be charged criminally if they intentionally injured others for payment. In case that does happen, the NFLPA has hired outside legal counsel to represent players, if needed.
The league has not yet handed down suspensions to players involved in the bounty scandal. This week, the NFLPA will meet with the league to review evidence, as the league continues to work towards coming to a decision on what kind of discipline to hand out to the players who participated in the bounty program.
If any players are charged criminally, it would be hard to prove they actually committed criminal assault, as Gabe Feldman of the Tulane Sports Law Program explained when the NFL made their investigation public.
"They're difficult cases to bring, because it's hard to prove the injury was caused by a tackle with specific intent to injure, rather than a regular tackle. We all know injuries are a part of football. There can't be legal liability anytime there is an injury. Otherwise, you can't have football."
It's appeal day for the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Head coach Sean Payton will appeal his year-long suspension and assistant coach Joe Vitt will also appeal his six-game suspension. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, however, will not appeal his suspension.
Now for the latest appeal: the Saints organization as a whole is appealing their $500,000 fine as well as the loss of 2012 and 2013 second round picks, according to Judy Battista of the NY Times.
GM Mickey Loomis, suspended eight games, will also appeal.
As we noted in the previous appeals, this is a tough case to make. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the initial rulings and he'll also be the one hearing the appeal. It's hard to believe Payton, Vitt or the Saints organization will provide evidence that Goodell hasn't already seen.
It's unclear what Goodell's timetable will be on hearing the appeals.
Not only will New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton appeal his suspension for the bounty scandal, assistant coach Joe Vitt will, too. Vitt was suspended six games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his representation tells Pro Football Talk that he plans to appeal the suspension.
"Vitt and I discussed our concern that his appeal be consistent with the association's view that coaches also coach sportsmanship and fair play," Cornwell said by email. "Based on these discussions, I am confident that Joe's appeal and his long history in the NFL are consistent with our belief that there is no place at any level of football for bounties that target players."
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will not appeal his indefinite suspension.
As we explained previously, the appeals may not do much good. Goodell is the one who made the initial ruling and he's also the one who will hear the appeal. It's hard to imagine that either Payton or Vitt have new information that supports their cause.
If Vitt can successfully appeal his suspension, he could be a candidate for the interim head coaching job (assuming Bill Parcells doesn't get it).
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has until April 2 to appeal his year-long suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the Saints bounty scandal. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, Payton will file that appeal on Friday.
Payton is expected to seek guidance on the amount of time he will have to prepare his appeal, and will attempt to obtain the full reports from NFL security regarding the bounty evidence against him.
Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator, has decided not to appeal his indefinite suspension, La Canfora reports.
The appeal likely won't be overturned, in my opinion. Goodell is the one who ruled on the suspension and he's the one who will hear the appeal. It's hard to see how Payton could provide any more evidence that Goodell didn't already have before making the decision on the year-long suspension.
But for a practical matter, the appeal buys Payton more time. He is talking to Bill Parcells about a potential interim head coaching position and, because Payton's suspension won't take effect until after the appeal is heard, this gives him more time to figure out the interim head coach.
There's the issue of the Rooney Rule if the Saints interim head coach comes from outside the organization. According to Pro Football Talk, a league spokesman says the Saints can comply with the Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate on their own staff. That seems like a loophole in the Rooney Rule that would allow the Saints to hire Parcells if they wanted to.
In a twist to the Saints scandal, a report states that coach Sean Payton has talked with Bill Parcells about potentially assuming a role as interim head coach.
The NFL's annual owners meetings will be kicking off in Florida this week where they'll be discussing, among a number of items, potential rule changes.
Sean Payton released an apology Saturday for his role in letting then-New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams run a bounty program. Payton took full responsibility for what happened, and expressed his support for the league's efforts to enhance player safety.
I share and fully support the League's concerns and goals on player safety. It is, and should be paramount.
Respecting our great game and the NFL shield is extremely important to me.
Our organization will implement all necessary protections and protocols, and I will be more vigilant going forward.
I am sorry for what has happened and as head coach take full responsibility.
Finally, I want to thank Mr. Benson, our players and all Saints fans for their overwhelming support.
Head Coach Sean Payton
New Orleans Saints
Payton will serve out a 10-month suspension that will cost the head coach $5.8 million according to ESPN. The suspension begins April 1, and will run until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013. Payton's yearly salary has been reported at $7 million.
"Bountygate" is quickly turning into "Snitchgate," with Jeremy Shockey calling for the NFL to formally punish Warren Sapp, who's technically a league employee given his analyst role for the NFL Network, for suggesting that he was the one who informed the league about the New Orleans Saints offering bounties to defensive players to intentionally injure opponents.
"Is the league going to come down on their own people when someone does something so wrong and outrageous?" Shockey said. "There should be a standard for punishment, like getting suspended or fined or losing your job. If I say something about officials, the league fines me.
"This guy says something about me that's not true and that he's not supposed to say and what happens? Nothing. You'd think they would have done something to check it out. Heck, this guy [allegedly] hit a woman, got arrested and nothing happened to him."
Given Shockey's insistence for the truth, perhaps he shouldn't be so loose with his accusations. While Sapp was in fact arrested following a domestic violence charge in Feb. 2010, the charges were eventually dropped.
But still, the point stands, and not just because Shockey denies the accusation (and provided photographic "evidence"): it's bad form for the league to allow employees to make a villain out of the whistleblower, whoever that whistleblower may be. Those involved with setting and collecting bounties are the villains, not the person who put an end to it.
The story of the day, besides the Tim Tebow non-trade, is that the NFL has come down hard on several coaches and executives of the New Orleans Saints for their role in the three-year bounty program discovered by a league investigation.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was "stunned" after hearing of his one-year suspension. The only person who got it worse than him, former defensive Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely, has issued a statement indicating his desire to work with the NFL in the rest of the investigation and ultimately make a return to the NFL coaching ranks.
"I'd like to again apologize wholeheartedly to the NFL, Coach Fisher, the entire Rams organization and all football fans for my actions. Furthermore, I apologize to the players of the NFL for my involvement as it is not a true reflection of my values as a father or coach, nor is it reflective of the great respect I have for this game and its core principle of sportsmanship. I accept full responsibility for my actions. I highly value the 23 years that I've spent in the NFL. I will continue to cooperate fully with the league and its investigation and I will focus my energies on serving as an advocate for both player safety and sportsmanship. I will do everything possible to re-earn the respect of my colleagues, the NFL and its players in hopes of returning to coaching in the future."
Williams could one day return to coaching. Or he could get banned for life. His status will be reviewed next year. I think Roger Goodell has shown he's willing to issue harsh punishments for those who violate the player safety rules.
St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher met with media on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the team's plans now that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely due the his role in running a bounty program with the New Orleans Saints. Fisher clarified that he never would have hired Williams had he known about the investigation.
He also said that the team has no plans to hire another defensive coordinator now that Williams is on the outs. Instead, the Rams will take a by-committee approach, combining the efforts of Fisher, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis and other assistants to hopefully field an NFL-caliber defense.
Williams's future in the NFL is in serious jeopardy following Roger Goodell's decision. Even if the Rams, or another team, wanted to take him on, it is unclear how long "indefinite" really is in this instance. It's possible we have seen the last of Gregg Williams in the NFL.
For more on the Rams, head over to the SB Nation blog Turf Show Times. Stay tuned to SB Nation's ongoing StoryStream and head over to the Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles for the latest on bountygate.
We knew the Saints punishment was coming, and Wednesday, Roger Goodell and the NFL suspended Sean Payton for one year, sending the same message that the NFL's been selling all along.
SB Nation's latest at YouTube takes a look at the unprecedented punishments handed out to the New Orleans Saints after a lengthy NFL investigation found the existence of a bounty program, which rewarded players financially for hurting opposing players.
One important note the SB Nation YouTube crew makes is on Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator, who is now with the St. Louis Rams. He was issued an "indefinite" suspension which, as SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein and Matt Ufford point out, is never good. Sean Payton was suspended for a year so presumably "indefinite" in this case means more than a year.
Or maybe forever. That's a very real possibility, too.
So this thing isn't over yet. The players still need to be punished, too. There's still more to come.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton apparently isn't taking his one-year bountygate suspension too well, with Jay Glazer reporting that the coach was stunned by the news. Perhaps even more shocking than the severity of the punishment is how much Payton stands to lose from it. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Payton will also lose one year's salary:
Sean Paytonalso will lose $7.5 million - his base pay as the Saints coach from the contract extension he signed before 2011.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 21, 2012
That is a massive amount of money, even for a wealthy and successful NFL head coach. What happens to the extra cash remains to be seen. For now, the Saints will have to figure who will take over the team in the interim, likely either offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The New Orleans Saints were hammered by the NFL for the bounty program they conducted under head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the last three seasons. Payton is suspended for a year, GM Mickey Loomis is out for half a season and the organization has been stripped of second round picks in the next two drafts.
Of all the punishments for those involved, Payton's full-year suspension is the most unbelievable one. The suspension starts on April 1 so he'll soon be gone from the Saints facilities for an entire year.
I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment
The explanation should be fairly straight-forward: Williams ran a bounty program which paid Saints players if they hurt opposing players and both Payton and Loomis didn't do all they could to stop it. That's the gist of it.
The severity of the punishments is debatable but the NFL is clearly trying to send a "strong and lasting message" to the rest of the league that this sort of thing simply can not happen.
Sean Payton's one-year suspension, effective on April 1, came as a shock not only to the entire sports world, but to the New Orleans Saints head coach himself. The NFL Network's Jay Glazer interviewed Payton immediately following commissioner Roger Goodell's decision. Payton was reportedly stunned.
"I did talk to him and he's stunned to say the least," Glazer said. "I think the entire team thought maybe there'd be a four-game suspension, but not a year. I said, ‘Are you OK?' And he said, ‘No, I'm not OK.' He is stunned. He's going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here."
Payton had anticipated a four-game suspension, and was set to appoint assistant head coach Joe Vitt as the interim leader of the Saints. Vitt was himself handed a six-game suspension, however, forcing New Orleans to come up with a Plan B. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, or defensive coordinator and former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo may now be asked to take over the reigns.
The NFL brought the hammer down on the New Orleans Saints organization for their role in the three-year bounty program uncovered by the league's investigation last month. Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for a year, GM Mickey Loomis for eight games and the Saints will lose second round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL draft. Payton, Loomis and the Saints organization were all fined, as was assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who was also suspended six gams. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
But that's not all the punishments we'll see. The NFL's statement on the Saints punishment includes this line:
Discipline for individual players involved in the Saints' prohibited program continues to be under review with the NFL Players Association and will be addressed by Commissioner Goodell at a later date.
More suspensions and/or fines could be coming once the league moves onto the players and judging by Roger Goodell's quotes in the NFL's release, those punishments could be severe as well.
"While I will not address player conduct at this time, I am profoundly troubled by the fact that players - including leaders among the defensive players - embraced this program so enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow players," Commissioner Goodell said. "While all club personnel are expected to play to win, they must not let the quest for victory so cloud their judgment that they willingly and willfully target their opponents and engage in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players."
The NFLPA is conducting its own investigation into the bounty program and doesn't want the players punished until they're able to complete that investigation.
So, as harsh as this punishment is, more could be coming.
When the news of the New Orleans Saints bounty program over the last three seasons came out a few weeks ago, many figured the NFL would come down especially hard on those involved considering NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's tenure has been highlighted by his focus on player safety.
The NFL announced the Saints punishment on Wednesday afternoon and, even though we expected big punishments, it's still stunning. Read about all the punishments here but the summary: Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended for a year, GM Mickey Loomis is out for half a season and the Saints have been stripped of their next two second round picks, among other fines and punishments for assistant coaches.
Goodell explained the motivation behind the harsh punishments.
"We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game," Commissioner Goodell said. "We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised."
"A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious," Commissioner Goodell continued. "When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game."
The Saints, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, didn't immediately confess to any wrong doing when the NFL was investigating, which may have led to a harsher punishment.
The punishment for those involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is in and it's bigger than expected. According to multiple reports, Saints head coach Sean Payton will be suspended for one full year for his role in the scandal, GM Mickey Loomis has been suspended eight games and the Saints organization itself has been fined $500,000 and stripped of second round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL draft. Gregg Williams, former Saints defensive coordinator who is now with the St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely. Joe Vitt, assistant head coach, has been suspended six games without pay.
Payton's suspension begins April 1.
The punishment is stunning, particularly for Payton, who will be gone for an entire season. This is a head coach two years removed from a Super Bowl victory we're talking about. The Saints are one of the premier organizations in the league and the NFL came down on them incredibly hard.
Considering the Saints actions, or in the case of Payton and Loomis their inaction, the punishment speaks volumes about the league's stance on bounties. The league has focused on player safety in the Roger Goodell era and the Saints bounty scandal flies right in the face of all those efforts. The league had to make a statement about actions like this and this punishment speaks volumes.
We're also waiting to hear whether any Saints players will be punished. The NFLPA is conducting their own investigation and has requested that the punishment of any players to be delayed until they're done.
The NFL is expected to hand down punishment sometime this week to those involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. The league reportedly wanted to make a decision before their owner meetings next week and according to NFL Network the league could announce punishment sometime before Friday.
Owners and other league executives will be getting together in Florida on Monday for the start of the annual spring owners meetings.
It's possible the punishments to everyone involved are staggered. For example, we could hear of a fine for the Saints organization as a whole this week and perhaps even suspensions for the coaches involved, including Saints head coach Sean Payton and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who is now with the Rams). But the NFLPA wants to conduct its own investigation so some of the players involved, like Jonathan Vilma, may not receive their punishments right away.
NFL officials will reportedly meet with the New Orleans Saints to determine an appropriate punishment for the alleged bounties that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams put on opposing players. It is currently unclear what kind of punishment the Saints should expect.
League officials meeting on Saints/bounty discipline Tues and Wed. Decision possible by end of week. Hard penalties expected— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 12, 2012
It has been reported that the Saints could receive a punishment worse than what the New England Patriots received for their so-called "Spygate." Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 as well as docked a first-round pick in connection to that incident.
The assertion here is that, regardless of the intent of the "pay for performances," the fact that cash payments were exchanged is a violation of the salary cap. When combined with allegations that players were paid to injure their opponents, the investigation could become more serious.
We're starting to hear from more and more members of the New Orleans Saints who have been accused of running a bounty program under then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis have released a statement, and now defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove has done the same.
I agree it was a late hit, but in the heat of the moment I was simply trying to make a play. I can assure you that when I got up, I was thinking 2 things, one, that I cost my team, and two, that I might have just cost myself some money if the NFL fined me. To put things in perspective, I received a game ball for my play that day and yet got fined while receiving nothing and expecting to receive nothing for the play some keep referencing. Kudos to Brett, he even asked me if that was all I had! Gotta love him.
Hargrove was also caught saying "Favre is done! Favre is done!" right after the hit. But, he explains, he wasn't wishing injury on Favre.
But did I personally want Favre INJURED? Absolutely and categorically NO! Did I feel like we, the Saints, had a better chance of being in the Super Bowl with Favre on the sideline? Of course.
For more on the Saints investigation, check out SB Nation's Bomani Jones and Erin Sharoni discussing the allegations in the video below. And visit SB Nation's YouTube channel for more videos.
Shortly after the NFL released the results of their investigation of Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, the NFLPA said they would be reviewing the NFL's investigation. The NFLPA is in kind of a tough spot because they represent both the players that were targeted and the players that were doing the targeting.
The NFLPA has now released a longer statement on their position regarding the bounty program with the Saints. The quick summary: the NFLPA wants to take a "comprehensive review" of the league's investigation to determine their facts and then work with the league to prevent this from happening in the future.
The NFLPA negotiated vigorously to protect our players from coercive actions that compromise health and safety. The current CBA contains detailed rules on what clubs and coaches can and cannot do in terms of practice schedules and places limitations on the amount of contact. These rules include how clubs and coaches can be punished for violations of those safeguards. The statements made by New Orleans Saints management and coaches confirm that they engaged in improper and coercive activities.
We will vigorously protect the rights of all players. Until the facts are known, judgment based on reports in the media is speculative. That is why the NFLPA is undertaking a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding these reported violations of League rules. As part of this review, the NFLPA has requested that the NFL help facilitate interviews with members of New Orleans Saints management and coaching staff that were employed by the club in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
We recognize that this investigation was conducted over the course of many months. Accordingly, we have requested that the NFL provide us with sufficient time to complete our internal review as counsel to the players.
If the facts prove that players voluntarily and willingly participated in conduct that jeopardized health and safety, we will work with them and the league to put in place additional safeguards to prevent this in the future. Dangerous play and acts on the field by players intended to injure have no place in football. We must do better to ensure that this activity is not a part of our game.
Five days after the New Orleans Saints were accused of implementing a bounty program from 2009 through 2011 under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, two of the principal figures embroiled in the scandal have issued a statement.
The Saints released the statement below, which is attributed to head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis.
We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility.
This has brought undue hardship on Mr. Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.
These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans.
Mickey Loomis & Sean Payton
It's been reported that Payton and Loomis have the support of Saints owner Tom Benson, despite the NFL's findings that neither Payton nor Loomis made attempts to stop the bounty program. The league will likely issue harsh discipline to both Payton and Loomis sometime before the end of March. Some have speculated that the league's penalty could include a fine and a multi-game suspension.
SB Nation's YouTube channel recently touched on the Saints investigation.
More and more information regarding the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is starting to come out. One interesting tidbit comes from Peter King's latest for Sports Illustrated. King cites a league source in talking about the meeting between two members of the Saints -- head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis -- and NFL investigators.
Last Thursday, Loomis and Payton flew to New York to meet individually with Joe Hummel, the NFL's director of investigations, and Jeff Miller, its lead security officer. Faced with the weight of evidence, one league source said, Loomis admitted he could have done more and that he "let Mr. Benson down."
According to the source, Payton refused to admit he knew much of what Williams was doing. Confronted with the e-mail from Ornstein, Payton expressed surprise and said he hadn't read the e-mail.
Ornstein is Mike Ornstein, a marketing agent who got into legal trouble regarding the scalping of Super Bowl tickets and fraudulent game-worn jerseys. He was reportedly a close confidant of Payton, and he has been accused of sending an email to Payton with an offer to put money into the pot for bounties.
As you can read above, Payton denied that he read the email. King reports that Ornstein claimed he was kidding about the monetary pledge.
It's significant that Payton denied he knew everything that was going on. The NFL's investigation claimed that Payton knew but didn't do anything to stop it.
Lying to the league is never a good look and could end up making the punishment worse.
As has been previously reported, a decision on the punishment for those involved is expected some time before the NFL's owners meetings at the end of March.
SB Nation's YouTube crew discussed the bounty investigation, which you can view below. Subscribe to SB Nation's video channel here.
The New Orleans Saints and Gregg Williams bounty scandal has come under a lot of fire, especially given the fact that multiple reports are indicating Saints owner Tom Benson gave the order for Payton and Loomis to put an end to the bounty program. This order was obviously ignored, but according to a report by Sports Illustrated, Benson supports both head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis.
"The bond between Sean and Mickey and Mr. Benson could not be stronger," a team the official told The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing. "(Benson) is 110 percent behind his guys."
The punishment for the bounty scandal is not known at this moment, but the penalty handed down is expected to be pretty severe. While it seems a bit odd that Tom Benson would be "110 percent" supportive of Payton and Loomis despite them ignoring a direct order, it's not really surprising.
While other teams in the NFL didn't necessarily know about the New Orleans Saints bounty program, at least one noticed that their defense was more aggressive than average. On Monday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman said that the Bucs' coaching staff has warned their players about the Saints going for cheap shots over the last three years, and that he wasn't shocked to learn about the bounty program.
"We just knew every time we played the Saints, they were going to take some cheap shots. I mean, it was always something we acknowledged. We knew Gregg Williams' defenses were physical and they were going to get after you. Knowing what we know now, it's not surprising that was the system that was set up for them. It is what it is. I'd just say it's not surprising.''
Freeman suffered one memorable dirty hit in particular from a Saints player in 2010, when he was hit out of bounds by defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins was assessed a personal foul on the play and was later fined $10,000 by the NFL.
For more on the Bucs, head over to Tampa Bay Buccaneers blog Bucs Nation. For more on the Saints and the bounty scandal, check out New Orleans Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles and our Saints bounty program StoryStream.
Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot played under Gregg Williams for two seasons (2004 and 2007), enough experience for him to call shenanigans on accusations that New Orleans Saints players were being paid for collecting bounties supposedly placed on opposing players' heads. During an interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C., Smoot said that any "bounty" system was created by players and not nearly as dastardly as some would have us believe (via Sports Radio Interviews):
"It was never like that. It was more or less we started a pot as a defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles, who could get the most interceptions. It was never a bounty. It was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime, Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, or do that, we did that ourselves as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays."
Smoot, who retired in 2009, said any bounty system was not aimed at taking out specific players. Rather, it was a motivational tool used by coaches and players. Smoot also suggests that Williams also preached the importance of playing within the rules: "Just go out there and let’s go out there and set the tone clean. Let’s go win it clean. He never coached dirty football."
With 11 NFL seasons under his belt, LaDainian Tomlinson speaks with a certain amount of authority. He's also been among the league's more high-profile offensive players. So, it probably says something when the New York Jets running back says he greets news of the New Orleans Saints' putting "bounties" on players with something similar to a shoulder shrug as he did during an interview on XX 1090 Radio in San Diego (via Sports Radio Interviews):
"Now, I don’t know if there was ever a rule that said it couldn’t be done, but I am sure this is not the first time, trust me. This is not the first time this happened. It’s just now coming out that this type of stuff happened, but I’m not surprised at all. We’ll have to wait and see what the commissioner does as far as discipline, but in all honesty I mean I think it’s kind of part of the game. I mean to be honest with you I don’t think you can discipline them guys too much."
Tomlinson goes on to say that he's sure that he has been the target of these kinds of bounties and doesn't seem particularly bothered by it, noting that whether or not players received bonuses, they were surely looking to knock him out of games.
The investigation of current St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in the bounty scandal has prompted some to wonder just how long it was going on, and if it was just isolated to the New Orleans Saints. It's also begged some to look into just how much it affected the Saints on the field, and according to Football Outsiders, the Saints had more unnecessary roughness penalties on average than any other stops in Williams career, but the number of roughing the passer penalties were about the same.
Over the last two seasons, the Saints certainly have been flagged for roughness more than most other teams. In 2010-2011, they earned 15 Unnecessary Roughness penalties on defense, plus eight Roughing the Passer penalties. (There were no Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties, but those are pretty rare overall.) The average team in this two-year span earned 7.7 Unnecessary Roughness penalties and 6.0 Roughing the Passer penalties. The Saints were in the top five for Unnecessary Roughness both seasons.
As Football Outsiders shows, from 2001-2009, no Gregg Williams defense had more than four unnecessary roughness penalties in a single season or more than five roughing the passer penalties. This doesn't necessarily show Williams did not employ the same type of bounty system when he was with the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Titans, but maybe that the Saints players were just more "gung-ho" about acting out the system.
Bounties may be at the root of the Saints scandal, but they should be the least of the NFL's concerns on the matter. That, plus LeBron James' weekend, MLB's new gimmick and much more in this week's Monday Morning Jones.
The NFL's investigation into the New Orleans Saints bounty program is expected to result in serious discipline for those involved, including former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who orchestrated much of the program. Players received extra money for big hits and for knocking opponents out of the game, according to reports.
The punishment is expected to be doled out sometime before the league's annual meetings on March 25, and perhaps as soon as the next week or two, Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com reported.
The punishment is expected to be severe, even worse than the Patriots' SpyGate punishment, which resulted in a $500,000 fine for head coach Bill Belichick, $250,000 fine for the organization and the loss of a first round pick. The Saints don't have a pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
The discipline is also expected to be significant because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has placed a major emphasis on player safety in recent years. The bounty program goes right in the face of Goodell's efforts to make the game safer, which is why Williams and those associated with the bounty program will likely receive a hefty punishment.
Gregg Williams is headed to New York on Monday after the NFL decided to call him in for a meeting. Williams is at the center of a probe into widespread pay-for-performance systems, stretching from his most recent stint in New Orleans all the way back to his tenure in Buffalo and Washington. The NFL wants to know more of the story from his side, leading to an all-important meeting that could determine his future in the league.
NFL Network's Albert Breer has more on the meeting and what it may entail.
The source said Williams will talk with NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and security officials Joe Hummel and Jeff Miller. The summit was termed a "meeting" rather than a "hearing," according to the source.
The parties will continue to discuss Williams' violations in New Orleans and review his time as a coach in Tennessee, Buffalo, Washington and Jacksonville.
That this isn't a hearing and is instead more of a discussion says a lot about where the investigation lies at the moment. Breer notes that a punishment won't be coming on Monday, and in fact the discussion won't even center around the alleged bounty program with the Saints. Instead, officials plan to dig deeper, discussing Williams' past jobs and potential pay-for-play systems at each stop along the way.
Calling it a meeting instead of a hearing, coupled with news that Williams has been extremely cooperative, could point toward the former Saints defensive coordinator laying out what occurred and when.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, because every defensive player who's worked under Gregg Williams' tutelage will likely be caught up, but Scott Fujita has reportedly been implicated in the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation. Fujita's involvement, if reports of the investigation do stretch to him, has to sting for the NFLPA. And still, he probably won't be the last player to be caught up in the investigation.
Chris Mortensen had the report and an important note about Fujita's position within the NFLPA.
As the union preaches safety, taking care of one another and benefits, one of their executive committee members was reportedly involved in the pay-for-performance scheme that's goal was to knock opposing players from the game with an injury. It's not a pretty situation, but none of this investigation is, and we still don't know all the details of the investigation.
An NFL investigation has found that former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams implemented a bounty system where players were compensated for injuring opposing players while he was with the team. Reports emerged that Williams did the same thing with the Washington Redskins.
When new reports emerged on Saturday that there was no such program with the Tennessee Titans or the Jacksonville Jaguars during Williams' tender, it calmed concerns that he did this everywhere. Was the phenomenon confined to two teams?
"There was financial compensation ... That's real, that happened in Buffalo. There were rewards. There never was a point where cash was handed out in front of the team. But surely, you were going to be rewarded. When somebody made a big hit that hurt an opponent, it was commended and encouraged."
This story is probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Gregg Williams stands accused of running a pay-for-performance program, offering bounties to his players for injuring opponents, as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, as well as during his time with the Washington Redskins. For now, those appear to be only two franchises to levy bounties on Williams' watch.
Two sources denied to the Florida Times-Union that the Jacksonville Jaguars ran a bounty program under Williams' one season with the team (2008), and former safety Blaine Bishop told The Tennessean that no such bonuses were in place during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans. (hat-tip: NFL.com)
Bishop's stance runs counter to that of former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who said he believes the Titans put out a hit for Peyton Manning under his tenure. It should be pointed out that Williams was not with the Titans when Dungy coached the Colts, having left the program after the 2000 season. Williams arguably could have created a culture that pervaded through the beginning of Dungy's tenure with Indianapolis in 2002, however.
"I am not going to call him (Dungy) a liar, but we never had any bounties when I played, I know that," Bishop said. "Gregg never had any bounties. If we did, I never got paid. But the truth is we never had them. It didn't happen with the Titans when I was there, so it didn't happen when Gregg was there. I don't know what Coach Dungy is referring to. Maybe he is getting confused with when Gregg was with the Bills, or maybe the Redskins? I don't know."
Bishop did say he believes Williams should be punished.
"Gregg should be fined, punished, whatever the league thinks," Bishop said. "I don't condone it, and I just don't think it's right. But I know we never had any bounties when I played in Tennessee. So what Coach Dungy is referring to, I don't know."
Williams joined the St. Louis Rams as defensive coordinator for the 2012 season. He had been with the Saints since 2009.
With the news of Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints operating a staff-supported bounty system, news has also spread that Williams may have employed a similar program all throughout his tenure in the NFL as a defensive coordinator, including his time with the Washington Redskins.
If that's the case, it happened unbeknownst to Joe Gibbs, the former Redskins head coach told the Washington Post. "Just let me say this: I'm not aware of anything like this when I was coaching there," Gibbs said in a phone interview with the newspaper. "I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never."
While it's hard to imagine that a head coach could be unaware of a bounty system going on, it's also not really a new thing. What makes what the Saints did so egregious was the whole coaching staff being on board and encouraging it. Gibbs also told the Post that if he had known about the system while Williams was his defensive coordinator, he'd have stopped it.
Remember the name Mike Ornstein, as the investigation into the New Orleans Saints pay-for-performance program continues to unravel. Ornstein may not be a familiar name outside of NFL circles and New Orleans, but his role in the Saints' bounty program should raise some eyebrows.
Considering Ornstein's background and involvement with the 'bounty' scheme implemented by Gregg Williams, something about this all seems odd. A somewhat formal pay-for-performance system isn't necessarily surprising, but the public revelation is a black mark for the NFL. After all, the league has been preaching player safety with renewed vigor lately, all while players were intentionally trying to injure each other for a few extra dollars.
And that's before even taking into account Ornstein's place in the whole system. He left a paper trail -- an email to head coach Sean Payton -- and put up large sums of money on more than one occasion, to be paid out if a defensive player knocked an opposing quarterback from the game. But why would a man not on the payroll and with no real vested interest in the Saints' success throw down the kind of money Ornstein did? Would he actually just drop cash out of the goodness of his heart, simply because he was close with Payton and the team?
Ornstein has done just about everything in professional football, working mostly on the marketing side of the sport., even rising to the rank of VP of Marketing for the league. But there's bad to go along with his business prowess: in the early 2000s, he fraudulently marketed NFL jerseys from a manufacturer as game-worn. In 2010, he was caught up in a federal investigation for the fraudulent jerseys, as well as a Super Bowl ticket scalping scheme, resulting in a prison sentence.
Looking at his past, it would appear Ornstein's career was one long hustle. He dabbled in the merchandise scam, flipped Super Bowl tickets for nearly a decade and was tangled up in the Reggie Bush scandal, eventually landing the former USC running back as a client. In 1995, Ornstein pleaded guilty to mail fraud after defrauding the league of $350,000 by submitting fake invoices. Cons and his work with the NFL have gone hand-in-hand.
Wondering how powerful a man Ornstein is and how worrying his presence may be to the NFL? The following is from Yahoo!, following Ornstein's arrest in 2010.
"Knowing Orny the way I do, there's no question that he'll do whatever he has to do to save himself, and that could be very bad for a lot of people," one of the aforementioned sources said. "You're talking about a lot of money changing hands. A lot of money and a lot people."
Ornstein is a powerful man with a lot of connections who also happened to engage in multiple fraudulent ventures. He jumped from one con to the next, from mail fraud to marketing fraudulent game-worn jerseys to ticket scalping.
So why, then, was Ornstein throwing down bounty money? It's one thing for the players to put up money in the locker room for big hits and plays. It's another for an outside source, especially one with the record Ornstein has, to enter the fray.
That, more than Williams' pay-for-performance system, should scare the NFL.
An NFL investigation revealed on Friday uncovered a significant bounty program put into place in New Orleans by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The discovery of a somewhat formal pay-for-performance system, in which players were rewarded for injuring opponents, shook the NFL, and the implications and fallout could be widespread as the league begins to hand out punishments.
As we all wait to see what's next, SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein and Brad Wells discussed the potential punishment, the comparisons to Spygate and what may happen to Williams going forward. The video can be found below, as well as on our new Youtube channel, which you can subscribe to here.
While this does compare to Spygate in a way, especially when considering the team's involvement in activities deemed illegal by the NFL, the fallout from the bounty investigation is likely to far exceed that of the Patriots' investigation, as Wells notes. Additionally, we don't yet know the full results of the investigation, if things spread beyond New Orleans, or if there's more than meets the eye.
All of these questions should become clear in the next few days and weeks, but for now it doesn't look good for any of the parties involved.
It's not exactly surprising that players have put up bounties on big hits and injuries. Though it's not out in the open like the New Orleans Saints pay-for-performance program uncovered by an NFL investigation, there have always been murmurs of bonuses for big plays. This is football, after all: a sport where violence and injuries are part of the game, and taking out a star player on the opposing team is advantageous in a competitive sense.
It'd be naive to think this is a big deal only because it's breaking some new ground. It's not. However, there's a difference in this case, besides the fact that the Saints were actually caught.
Stephen White explains why this case is different from the typical notion of a bounty system.
Now I can totally see why this is a big deal. People outside the team were putting in on the bounties. Imagine if they then bet on the game— Stephen White (@sgw94) March 3, 2012
And without confirming or denying any first hand knowledge of how bounties usually work, usually its just the players putting in on it— Stephen White (@sgw94) March 3, 2012
White is a former player who would know how these hypothetical bounties would work. It's one thing for the players to talk amongst themselves about bounties. It's another for coaches to get involved. And it's even worse when someone from outside the organization, in this case Mike Ornstein, is putting up large sums of money to take out an opposing players.
There are different levels of 'bad' here, and this case seems to be one of the worst.
When Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were busted for illegally videotaping the New York Jets from the sidelines, they were fined $250,000, Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was docked a first round pick. Unsurprisingly, Adam Schefter and others predicted earlier that the New Orleans Saints bounty program would invite a much harsher punishment from the league. While that seems reasonable without any deep analysis of NFL rules and previous scandals, SI.com's Peter King explains exactly why that is the case.
Since mid-2010, when a spate of head injuries ratcheted up the NFL's attention to player safety, Goodell has been nearly manic about player safety. The league has heavily fined players for excessive and late hits on players, and Goodell's relationship with many prominent players in the league has been radically affected because of it. That's why the penalties in this case will be significantly more severe -- almost certainly -- than what was levied on the Patriots four seasons ago. It's hard enough for players to stay on the field in the first place, never mind when a team is purposely trying to injure them.
That's why you can expect Goodell to issue the most severe penalties of his six-year reign on the Saints as soon as late this month.
It's impossible to predict what kind of penalty the NFL is going to lay on the Saints, but it wouldn't be stunning if it was so severe that it hindered the team's ability to be competitive in 2012 and into the near future.
Mike Ornstein is a former marketing agent for Reggie Bush and was, at least at one point, a close friend of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. More importantly than that, he is a really sketchy guy. Back in 2010, Ornstein pled guilty to "one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, money laundering and one count of mail fraud" after he conspired to scalp Super Bowl tickets. Ornstein had previously been convicted of mail fraud in 1995.
Despite all of this, he was very close with the Saints organization. So close, in fact, that he contributed to Gregg Williams' bounty program. Oh, and he was stupid enough to talk about it in an email to Payton.
According to CBS Sports NFL reporter Mike Freeman, who has acquired details of a memo sent to all NFL teams regarding the Saints bounty program, Ornstein contributed large sums of money to bounties on multiple occasions and placed details of the bounty system in an email to Payton. He detailed a $5,000 bounty in that email. In 2009, Ornstein put down $10,000 towards a bounty on an opposing quarterback. He also contributed to a QB bounty on two separate occasions in 2011.
The Saints not only had a bounty program where players were paid to injure opponents, but they allowed a convicted felon to contribute to it. Spectacular.
The flood of statements from the various parties involved with the alleged bounty program run by the New Orleans Saints, uncovered by an NFL investigation, continue to roll in, and now it's the NFL Players Association's turn. The NFLPA will likely play a big role in whatever happens with this investigation going forward, so all eyes are on how the union handles this delicate situation.
Here's the statement, which is cautious in its approach.
Health and safety is a paramount issue to the NFLPA. The NFLPA was informed of this investigation by the NFL earlier today and will review the information contained in the league's report.
The NFLPA is in a weird spot with this one. This isn't necessarily a players vs. owners battle. Instead, it's players planning to hurt other players, and the fallout could be quite complicated. If it can be proved the bounty system led to serious, career-altering injuries, the union could find itself in the middle of lawsuits -- perhaps against other players; perhaps against the league.
You didn't think that the bounty scandal was going to stay confined to the New Orleans Saints, did you? Gregg Williams, the Saints defensive coordinator who ran the bounty system, has been employed by many teams in the NFL, one of them being the Washington Redskins. According to a report at the Washington Post, Williams implemented and ran a similar system while he was the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.
Four players who played for Williams with the Redskins spoke to the Post, but only one player -- defensive lineman Phillip Daniels -- did not speak anonymously. He tried his best to make the system sound a bit less malicious than it has in previous reports.
"I think it is wrong the way they're trying to paint [Williams]. He never told us to go out there and break a guy's neck or break a guy's leg. It was all in the context of a good, hard football."
Another anonymous player echoed those sentiments, but pointed out that Williams' cash bonuses for hard, clean plays could have led some players to cross the line and ultimately cause injuries as a result.
"I never took it for anything [but] just incentive to make good, hard plays ... But I'm pretty sure it did entice some guys to do more to a player than normal when it came to taking them out. I mean, that's cash. Let's just be honest about it. If you took the star player out, he'd hook you up a little bit."
It's important to note that, even if Williams gave players cash bonuses for good performances and not for causing injuries, that is still against NFL rules and still the kind of thing he can get in a lot of trouble for. In any event, the fact that he had a similar system in Washington will have his current employer and his other former employers asking questions.
Gregg Williams is no longer with the New Orleans Saints, but in his wake his former team is dealing with a significant crisis. Now with the St. Louis Rams, Williams likely faces significant discipline from the NFL after allegedly helping organize a pay-for-performance program for his defense in New Orleans -- a program that included monetary incentives for causing injuries to opponents.
On Friday, Williams acted quickly, releasing a statement apologizing for his actions in New Orleans.
"I want to express my sincere regret and apology to the NFL, Mr. Benson, and the New Orleans Saints fans for my participation in the ‘pay for performance' program while I was with the Saints. It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again."
At this point, it appears we're past the point of denials and will quickly move ahead to the disciplinary period. Williams taking responsibility for the program would seem to suggest he's in for a hefty punishment -- be it in the form of a hefty fine or suspension, or both.
As if the New Orleans Saints bounty program story wasn't already ugly enough, it could potentially get a whole lot uglier. According to CBS Sports NFL reporter Pat Kirwan, players who were injured in games against the Saints from 2009-2011 -- the period of time that the bounty program was alleged to have occurred in -- are considering legal action to recoup damages suffered.
There could be lawsuits to follow by players injured in games against the Saints during the 2009-11 seasons.Lawers have been texting me— Pat Kirwan (@PatKirwanCBS) March 2, 2012
It could be some time before an actual lawsuit is filed against the Saints and/or the NFL, but it's not surprising that players are already considering legal action. If one is injured by someone who intended to injure them while violating rules set by their employers, a civil suit seems reasonable.
Head coach Sean Payton may not have directly participated in the New Orleans Saints' alleged bounty program, but that doesn't mean he wasn't indirectly involved. According to a memo sent to all NFL clubs, Payton's agent was involved in the bounty program on more than one occasion. While the league never implicated Payton himself, it did note that he did nothing to stop the program once he got wind of it.
The report comes from NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora. Down the rabbit hole we go!
Memo sent to NFL clubs notes an incident with Saints LB Jon Vilma putting up $10K cash for a pre-playoff bounty and also notes that...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 2, 2012
, according to the memo, Sean Payton's agent, Mike Ornstein, put up money for a bounty on two occasions. Memo says the actions of ...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 2, 2012
Payton and GM Mickey Loomis serves as "conduct detrimental" to the game. Hard not to think steep punishment is coming— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 2, 2012
So, yeah: One would have to assume this is going to get worse before it gets better for the Saints. When the head coach's agent is implicated directly and the general manager is accused of turning a blind eye, it just doesn't look good.
Jonathan Vilma may be in a little trouble as a result of the bounty "scandal" involving the New Orleans Saints. Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allegedly implemented a pay-for-performance system that gave players incentives for big plays, including fumbles and interceptions, as well as injuries.
"In the week of the NFC Championship Game," Schefter said on NFL Live Friday, "Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma put $10,000 in cash on a table and said 'this goes to the guy that knocks out Brett Favre.'" Those weren't Vilma's exact words, but they were similar, according to Schefter, and he's sure to be atop the league's target list for impending discipline. It's worth nothing that Vilma is due $5.4 million in 2012 and has been discussed as a possible salary cap casualty. We wouldn't expect him back with the Saints.
Vilma could be facing a suspension or monetary fine if it's proved he offered a cash reward for knocking Favre out of the game. The NFL is moving swiftly following its investigation of the pay-for-performance allegations, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the league make an example of at least one player, if not the whole team and Williams.
The New Orleans Saints are being investigated by the NFL over a bounty program implemented by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that rewarded players for injuring opponents and resulted in improper pay for performance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't announced a punishment for the franchise yet, but it is certainly a public relations disaster.
According to NFL.com, team owner Tom Benson instructed general manager Mickey Loomis to end the program when he was made aware of the league's findings, but Loomis did not carry out Benson's directions. Here is exactly what Benson had to say in the statement he released after news of the league investigation broke on Friday:
"I have been made aware of the NFL's findings relative to the "Bounty Rule" and how it relates to our club. I have offered and the NFL has received our full cooperation in their investigation. While the findings may be troubling, we look forward to putting this behind us and winning more championships in the future for our fans."
According to the NFL's findings, players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart off," with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.
Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back on what we've seen and heard the NFL's investigation of the New Orleans makes more sense. The NFL's investigation showed that some Saints players had a bounty program that rewarded them for injuring other players. The practice when on under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-11.
In last year's NFC championship game the Saints were fined a total of $30,000 for four different hits on Vikings players, including three that were delivered to quarterback Brett Favre. The Saints also were flagged three times for personal foul penalties.
Childress said he definitely wonders if the Saints were intentionally trying to injure his players in that game.
"Yes, I would have to say that, yes," he said.
The NFL's statement of the Saints investigation said that they started investigating the Saints in 2010 after allegations of them injuring quarterbacks had come out, including guys like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. Favre was hit hard by the Saints defense in that 2009 NFC Championship game.
Warner was blasted after he threw an interception in a 2010 game against the Saints.
Not everyone on the Saints is guilty and we don't know all the players that were involved but it starts to make you wonder about all the players injured against the Saints in the last three years. It also makes you do a double-take at some of the hits you've seen from their defense, like this one from Malcolm Jenkins:
Plenty of hits will be scrutinized in the coming weeks and the Saints will be heavily criticized and disciplined by the league.
The New Orleans Saints aren't going to have a very good summer. The shadow of the latest news on this bounty program will be following the team for a while. An NFL investigation found that members of the Saints were participating in a bounty program that rewarded players for injuring players on the opposing team.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't announced a punishment for the Saints yet but SB Nation's Saints blog, Canal Street Chronicles, is hoping to avoid suspensions or loss of draft picks.
As if the Saints don't have enough crap to deal with, now we find out about this. Not good, folks. Not good. I could care less about fines, but having key defensive players suspended or giving up draft choices would be less than ideal.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that it's a "safe prediction" that the Saints will be punished worse than the New England Patriots in Spygate. Back then, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the team was fined $250,000 and they were docked a first round pick.
The NFL's investigation into the New Orleans Saints has focused on the bounty program, where players were rewarded for big hits and injuring players on the opposing team. But the Saints also broke another rule by allowing cash payments between themselves for big plays like interceptions.
The NFL's statement reads:
During the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the players and other participants involved used their own money to fund a "Pay for Performance" program. Players earned cash awards for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries.
In addition to the bounty program, Saints players broke the rules by paying cash for interceptions and fumble recoveries. which isn't allowed. It could be a violation of the salary cap, no matter how small the amount of cash it is.
But that's the small rule that they broke. The big one is rewarding each other for injuring other players and it will cost them when the Commissioner hands down his discipline.
An NFL investigation has shown that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered a bounty program where players were rewarded for injuring players on the opposing team. This is obviously in violation of NFL rules and it's not something they take lightly.
With that much money on the line, people within the organization had to know what was going on, and they did. The NFL's investigation shows two key people in the Saints organization who knew about the bounty program but failed to stop it.
GM Mickey Loomis knew and, according to the investigation, didn't stop it.
The evidence conclusively established that [Saints owner] Mr. Benson was not aware of the bounty program. When informed earlier this year of the new information, Mr. Benson advised league staff that he had directed his general manager, Mickey Loomis, to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately. The evidence showed that Mr. Loomis did not carry out Mr. Benson's directions.
Head coach Sean Payton wasn't involved but he did know about it.
Although head coach Sean Payton was not a direct participant in the funding or administration of the program, he was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue.
According to an NFL investigation, between 22 and 27 Saints players and at least one assistant coach participated in a bounty program which was essentially a pool Saints players put cash into and they were rewarded for injuring opposing players.
The details are stunning at times. "The program paid players $1,500 for a "knockout" and $1,000 for a "cart-off" with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs, " the NFL's statement reads.
What's so troubling is that this was going on a Roger Goodell and the league have highlighted concussion treatment and prevention. This is a slap in the face to the safer NFL the Commissioner has said he wants to create. Goodell is quoted in the NFL's statement:
"It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game," Goodell said, "and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it."
This is a sensitive subject for Goodell himself. He has focused on illegal hits and vicious hits more than any other Commissioner. I wouldn't be surprised to see significant sanctions for the Saints. They could range anywhere from a fine to loss of draft picks, according to the NFL investigation.
According to an NFL investigation, between 22 and 27 players and at least one assistant coach on the New Orleans Saints participated in a bounty program which rewarded players for injuring players on the opposing team.
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