When it comes to the Saints bounty case, it’s finally time to dust off one of the most memorable catch phrases of the 1980s.
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.
The source said that the package of information also contains no list of witnesses to be called by the NFL, which reinforces the perception that Commissioner Roger Goodell will simply give the players the opportunity to explain their side of the story.
With such a limited compilation of evidence and no apparent plan to call witnesses — and no likely inclination to make witnesses available to be questioned by the players — it wouldn’t surprise us if linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has sued Commissioner Roger Goodell, refuses to proceed. Or if, at a minimum, Vilma refuses to say anything until the NFL produces real evidence showing that Vilma offered money for injury to be inflicted on another player.