On Friday, a stream of leaks emanated from 345 Park Avenue regarding the alleged contents of a pay-for-performance/bounty ledger that was maintained, presumably by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
As best we can ascertain via communications with multiple sources having knowledge of the investigation, the information leaked to various members of the media comes from the Power Point presentation that the league shared in April with NFLPA representatives. The raw data — a copy of the ledger itself — apparently has not been disseminated, as evidenced by the fairly significant error contained in the initial report from Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
Cole wrote that the ledger reflects three $1,000 payments to Saints players following a September 2009 game against the Bills. After we explained that the injuries from the Bills game don’t mesh with the contention that three $1,000 payments were made, Cole’s sources told him that the trio of four-figure party favors actually came from a November 2009 game against the Panthers.
Even then, the injuries that were inflicted in that game don’t seem to match the notion that three Panthers were carted off.
The end result is an even murkier mess that can never be clarified until raw evidence is released. Given the manner in which the league’s characterization of two items of evidence that have made their way to the media (i.e., the Anthony Hargrove declaration and the Mike Ornstein email) failed to correctly reflect their actual contents, there’s no reason to believe that any description or summary of raw evidence from the league is or will be accurate.
So if there’s a ledger, leak the ledger. Better yet, produce the ledger via a press release — the same kind of press release that accused linebacker Jonathan Vilma of offering $10,000 payments for the infliction of injuries on quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, without of course any of the raw evidence that backs up that accusation.
How do we know what the ledger actually says until the ledger itself can be examined, objectively and independently? Given the glitches in Friday’s reporting, and the lingering question regarding whether three Panthers players were in fact carted off or otherwise knocked out of the game with injury, it’s entirely possible that the $1,000 payments were for big — and legal — hits that inflicted no harm of any kind.
And so, at a time when some are content to conclude that the multiple reports regarding the ledger represent compelling evidence that a bounty system existed, we’re still no closer to knowing the truth than we were before the Yahoo! servers spit/spat out Cole’s story. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the leaked characterization of the ledger actually undermines the league’s claims.
Either way, no one should come to any conclusions until sufficient raw evidence that there actually was a bounty system is publicly disclosed.