When imposing discipline on the coaches involved in the Saints’ alleged bounty program, the NFL didn’t privately accuse assistant head coach Joe Vitt of contributing money to the pay-for-injury effort. More recently, however, the league publicly has claimed that Vitt pledged $5,000 to the Brett Favre bounty fund, via evidence produced in advance of the player appeal hearings and shown to the media on Monday.
NFL senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch recently confirmed to PFT that Vitt faced no specific claim of offering bounty money. “The short answer is no, we did not consider that as part of what formed the basis of his discipline,” Birch said on Tuesday’s PFT Live. “As we have stated before, what we did from an investigation standpoint is to look for things that were corroborated, and with respect to that particular point, there was no additional corroboration that would lead us to have the same level of confidence as many of the other things that we found.”
In other words, the league concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to formally accuse Vitt of kicking in money for the Favre bounty for imposing discipline on Vitt, but that there was enough evidence to informally accuse Vitt of kicking in money for the Favre bounty for imposing discipline on others.
But if the handwritten notes created by someone whom the league still refuses to identify aren’t deemed sufficiently credible to show that Vitt was guilty of offering money for a bounty, why are they being used as to anyone? And what precisely did the league do to try to corroborate the contents of the notes as to Vitt?
The obvious answer to the second question would be “confront Vitt with the notes and demand an explanation.” But lawyer David Cornwell told PFT earlier this week that Vitt was never suspected or accused of offering money. This means that the NFL never said to Vitt something like, “We have reliable evidence that suggests you offered a $5,000 bounty on Favre. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Keep in mind that the league determined as part of the investigation that Vitt lied in 2010, the first time the league looked into the situation. So Vitt isn’t someone to whom the league would be inclined to cut much slack or give the benefit of the doubt, especially as to evidence that he helped fund the bounty on Brett Favre.
While the handling of Vitt’s discipline has no direct bearing on the handling of player discipline, the disconnect suggests that the notes detailing the contributions made to the Brett Favre bounty — which perhaps constitute the only piece of clear written evidence pointing to the use of a bounty system — are for some reason not as reliable and credible as the NFL would have us all believe. And the curious failure of the league to take aggressive action against Vitt for conduct that, if it occurred, should have triggered a suspension of at least one year or more illustrates why, regardless of guilt or innocence, real questions need to be asked regarding the key details of this case.
Hopefully at some point by someone other than me.