- Jul 28, 2009
- Reaction score
The evidence the NFL provided to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on Friday in no way links the player to any "bounty" program, according to his lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.
The league, per rule, had to provide evidence for the basis of its discipline toward four suspended current and former Saints players by Friday since they have appeals hearings before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Monday.
Ginsberg said the majority of the evidence centers around a PowerPoint slideshow of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' directives and speeches to players. Ginsberg said there is other evidence besides the slide show, but none of it links Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita or Anthony Hargrove -- all suspended for part or all of the 2012 season by Goodell -- to putting bounties on opposing players.
"We have followed the procedures set forth in the CBA on appeals of commissioner discipline," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press.
"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 evidence provided by the league to players Friday is the meat of what it will provide against the players in their appeal hearing in explaining why they have been suspended. The league has said for months that is has enough evidence that the players violated the "Conduct Detrimental" rules of the collective bargaining agreement by having a pay-for-performance program in place from 2009 to 2011.
At roughly 2:00 p.m. ET on Friday, the NFL delivered by courier to the NFLPA the information on which the league plans to rely at Monday’s appeal hearings as to suspensions imposed on Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita.
From a much-ballyhooed 50,000-page file (which by its sheer volume presumably means that there was a bounty system, right?), the NFL surrendered, we’re told, fewer than 200 pages of information, arising from 16 total documents, which includes among other things handwritten notes, the email from Mike Ornstein containing the reference to the alleged $5,000 bounty on Aaron Rodgers, and seven different Power Point presentations shown by Saints coaches to players.
The league also produced footage from the 2009 NFC title game, with emphasis on a legal hit applied to Vikings quarterback Brett Favre followed by a player being heard asking for his “money.”
Surprisingly, the “evidence” produced by the NFL includes things that clearly aren’t evidence. For example, the league’s submission includes the rambling 10,000-plus word online manifesto posted on May 31 by Sean Pamphilon, and a June 6 article by Mike Triplette of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, in which he interviews linebacker Scott Shanle.
Per a source familiar with the information produced by the NFL, the packet contains no obvious smoking gun. ”It’s a water gun,” the source said.
That said, the source cautioned that review of the materials is ongoing. Initial scrutiny of the information reveals evidence of salary cap violations, but it includes no evidence of players being paid to inflict injury, players paying others to inflict injury, or players offering money to others to inflict injury. For example, the NFLPA has yet to locate in the packet any evidence establishing that linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who inflicted injury on Brett Favre or Kurt Warner during the 2009 playoffs.
Perhaps most significantly, the submission doesn’t include the bounty ledger about which Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported a couple of weeks ago.