NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held hearings on Monday for four players suspended in the Saints bounty scandal, who have complained that the process is unfair. Some of the players and their attorneys have said the suspensions are based on a lack of evidence.
“The NFL’s investigation has been highlighted by sensationalized headlines and unsubstantiated leaks to the media. I have yet to see anything that implicates me … not in the last three months and not today,” said former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. “The NFL has been careless and irresponsible, and at some time will have to provide answers.”
As part of the NFL’s CBA, the league turned over evidence to the union on Friday. The union made the evidence public on Monday, and some of the information “included some 200 pages of documents, with emails, power-point presentations, even handwritten notes, plus one video recording.” The ledger that supposedly shows bounty payments was not included in the evidence, but there was some damning material.
We looked through all of the 16 exhibits the league shared with the union as part of its evidence. Most of the documents include defensive plays, schemes, schedules, and game plans for opponents. But the documents also show motivational tools the Saints used, including an image of TV personality “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” and financial charts that seem to show the amount of money being offered for various hits or injuries.
Below is some of the more explosive evidence.
As you can see in the images above, Dog the Bounty Hunter was used as part of the preparation/motivation for the Saints when they played the Seahawks. Note the phrase “Now it’s time to do our job … collect bounty $$$!”
The NFLPA defended the image with the following explanation:
When [Gregg Williams] arrived, players weren’t familiar/fluent with the technique of “assessing the opponent”. This was part of the training used to teach this. GW used the above slide as a tool to teach by using popular culture to draw players in. It gave players a point of reference that they were familiar with. Unfortunately, “Dog the Bounty Hunter” was a poorly chosen and ironic example to use but life plays havoc on us at times.
Below is a chart that seems to show how much money was being offered to a Saints player who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game. It looks like Jonathan Vilma put up $10,000 as has been reported, and the total for a QB knockout seems to be $35,000:
The NFLPA did not address the above chart in its annotations.
Below is a chart that seems to show amount of money players received for what they did in a 2009 game against the Giants:
The NFLPA’s annotations defines the language used by Williams in the chart seen above, but there’s no explanation for why there were numerical amounts attached to them. The NFLPA is claiming that a cart-off doesn’t refer to a player being carted off to the field. They were trying to soften the language used in the charts and suggest the words aren’t what they appear to mean.
Even though there seems to be strong evidence that money was put up encouraging Saints players to injure opposing players, the NFLPA is denying those charges. They’re also attacking Commissioner Goodell’s punishments on several points, accusing him of:
- - Ran a sloppy investigation that inexplicably included a decision to not question any of the coaches about the documentary evidence used as a basis for punishment.
- Punished players before they had the ability to confront, challenge or explain a single piece of evidence used against them.
- Launched a public campaign in the media to support the discipline and tarnish the reputations of players before any hearing, effectively destroying any claim that the Commissioner could act as an impartial arbitrator.
- Withheld any and all evidence from the players for nearly four months despite repeated requests for full information and full transparency.
- Falsely characterized witness interviews to draw false conclusions about players’ involvement in a pay-to-injure scheme.
- Retained a former U.S. Attorney to whitewash the investigation by employing her to conduct a media conference call affirming an investigation she was not part of.
- Employed the same former U.S. Attorney to today’s hearing to read the report of an investigation she did not conduct, but prohibited her from answering any questions from the players.
- Refused to make any coaches involved in preparing the supposed documentary evidence available for interviews by the players or at today’s hearing.
- Provided only 200 pages out of their claimed 18,000 pages of materials and refused to provide any materials that might be exculpatory.
- Without explanation, produced at today’s hearing a declaration from a team advisor who said that no bounty program existed.
- Inexplicably relied upon an article and a blog post written after the investigation had concluded and punishment had been issued as ‘evidence’ even though they had supposedly collected thousands of documents proving players participated in a pay-to-injure scheme.
- Refused a three-day adjournment and delay of the appeals hearing so that the players could perform a more comprehensive review of the documents.
One of the points they make is a serious concern: The NFL was supposed to provide all its evidence to the union last Friday, but the union claims only 200 of 18,000 pages of material were shown to them. If that’s the case, then the rest of it might be meaningless because it wasn’t disclosed.
Still, the charts showing numerical values and dollar signs, plus the Dog The Bounty Hunter image seem to support the NFL’s case pretty strongly.
Photo credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIREGoogle+