By denying the NFL’s findings regarding the Saints’ bounty system, the NFLPA has attempted, wisely, to create a he said/she said dynamic as to whether players were involved, notwithstanding the admissions made by the coaches involved in the bounty program and, according to the NFL’s announcement from Wednesday, a signed declaration from defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
If the NFLPA has managed to posture the competing contentions as a tie, the NFL undoubtedly believes it has the tiebreaker.
Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the league explained in a Wednesday memo to all teams that a former prosecutor was hired to conduct an independent review of the evidence.
“We also took the step of engaging Mary Jo White, the former United States Attorney for New York, at an early stage of the investigation in order to ensure both the fairness of the process and the reliability of the information on which our decisions were made in the Saints matter,” Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to all teams. “Following a process that she has frequently undertaken on a wide range of matters in recent years, Mrs. White provided an independent view of the investigation from the perspective of an experienced and highly respected law enforcement officer.”
White currently practices white collar criminal defense at the firm of Debevoise & Plimpton.
“After her review, she expressed a high degree of confidence in the fairness of the investigation, the reliability of the findings, and the quality of evidence that supported those findings,” Goodell wrote.
The NFLPA has claimed that no detailed evidence regarding the existence of a “pay-for-injury” scheme has been provided to the union. It’s likely that both sides have kept their cards close to the vest in order to avoid any lawyering of the evidence. At some point, however, the cards need to hit the table.
The sooner they do, the more sense this will all make.