As we sift through the stream of holiday cards coming primarily if not exclusively from the friends and family members of Mrs. PFT, we can now cross one entity off the list of expected senders.
We posted last night an item explaining that former executive V.P. of football operations Vinny Cerrato will remain as a consultant to owner Daniel Snyder, and we suggested that the role might have something to do with keeping Cerrato quiet about matters like the recruitment of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
So I got a call today from Redskins General Counsel Dave Donovan, and he had Cerrato on the line.
Donovan, to put it mildly, wasn’t happy. (Unless he secretly moonlights as a drill sergeant.)
Before I go any farther on this one, I need to say that neither Donovan nor Cerrato used the magic words “off the record.” They didn’t say it at the outset of the call, they didn’t say it after a lull in the conversation during which they thought I’d hung up and I said, “I’m just taking good notes,” and they didn’t say it at the end when I thanked them for giving me so much material.
Donovan specifically wasn’t happy with the “insinuation” that Cerrato is being paid for his silence. “If Vinny wasn’t a public figure,” Donovan said, “it would be defamatory.”
Actually, it wouldn’t be defamatory even if Vinny wasn’t a public figure, since we made no statement of fact about anyone. We wrote only that there’s a suspicion that Cerrato will be paid in order to ensure that he doesn’t talk about things that he might know, whatever those things might be.
At one point, Donovan acknowledged that he also was unhappy with the fact that I wrote the item in a way that allowed me to make my point without creating any potential liability, calling the tactic “cowardly.” (We prefer the term, “prudent.” As does the NBC legal department.) And Donovan wasn’t pleased with the fact that the team is receiving calls from other reporters seeking an admission or denial of the suggestion that Cerrato is being paid to pipe down.
“If you have facts, print the goddamn facts,” Donovan said.
Meanwhile, Donovan explained that Cerrato remains under contract through February 2010, and that Cerrato’s contract will be honored. I asked whether he would thereafter be consulting with the Redskins or directly with Mr. Snyder, and Donovan said he “can’t speak to any future issue.” Cerrato said that he and Snyder “haven’t talked about that yet.”
On this specific point, we’ll allow the audience to come to their own conclusions about what Donovan and/or Cerrato might be insinuating.