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As real issue comes into focus, next bounty hearing comes Friday

Roger Goodell AP

The Summer of Law necessarily will spill into the preseason.

With the Saints and Cardinals squaring off on Sunday night in Canton and the first full night of preseason games coming Thursday, the bounty case will land back in federal court on Friday, August 10, for oral arguments on the league’s effort to obtain a dismissal of the effort to overturn suspensions of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita.

It’s likely that Judge Helen G. Berrigan will render at that time (if not sooner) a ruling as to whether Vilma’s one-year suspension will be lifted until the lawsuit ends.  She also may issue from the bench on Friday, August 10, a ruling on whether the suspensions will be upheld or overturned.

A flurry of legal filings landed in court on Friday, August 3; the New Orleans Times-Picayune has a summary of the filings but we’ll defer comment until we can analyze all of the documents.  (First, we have to get all of the documents.)

The paperwork was filed a day before Commissioner Roger Goodell came the closest he ever has to acknowledging that the process of paying players for inflicting injury constitutes a bounty program, even if the hits are clean and legal and there was no specific intent to injure.  “Well, the No. 1 thing is when you reward players for injuring other opponents, that’s a bounty,” Goodell said. “That’s not pay for performance, that’s a bounty.  And that’s what the players and, I believe, [Saints linebackers] Coach [Joe] Vitt said occurred.  And that’s what our evidence indicates.  So when you’re doing that, anything that would target or reward people for injuring other players, that’s not part of football.  That’s not what we’re teaching these kids, and it’s not what we’re going to do in the NFL.”

For reasons still not apparently clear, the league’s prior efforts to characterize the case seemed to focus on the notion that players entered the field of play with a specific plan to injure.  If the NFL had from the get-go said clearly and plainly that:  (1) the Saints offered money for legal hits that resulted in injury; (2) no intent to injure was required or necessary; and (3) the league’s Constitution and Bylaws specifically define such conduct as a “bounty,” even without specific intent to injure, then maybe there wouldn’t have been so much confusion.

The league’s failure to focus the analysis in such simple terms has allowed the NFLPA and players like Drew Brees to set the agenda by claiming that there was no “pay for injury” scheme because there was no intent to injure.

The truth is (or at least seems to be) that intent to injure doesn’t matter.

We’ve previously believed that the league shied away from explaining the situation in such simple terms because it could spark a debate regarding whether it’s fair to suspend players for receiving the equivalent of a helmet sticker for doing something they already had an incentive to do — hit the other guy hard enough to break his will, or one of his bones.

That’s football.  The incentive to hit other players hard will be there regardless of whether the player gets a short stack of $100 bills or a skull-and-crossbones sticker on the back of his helmet.  (Surely, college and high school teams give out stickers for hard, clean hits that knock an opponent out of the game.)

None of this means that the players will or won’t avoid their suspensions via litigation.  Legal disputes routinely are resolved based on a somewhat warped reality of phrases and clauses and concepts.  But we’re hoping that, eventually, the league and the Saints will comes to an agreement as to what this case is really about, and that the fans and the media then can discuss among themselves whether it’s appropriate to hammer the Saints for doing something that every team at nearly every level of the sport does — rewarding players for clean, legal hits that send those on the receiving end to the sidelines, whether for one play or the rest of the game.

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16 Responses to “As real issue comes into focus, next bounty hearing comes Friday”
  1. kingbeason52 says: Aug 5, 2012 2:54 PM

    I dont know what im more sick of hearing about..bounty gate, or the “dwightmare”

  2. kattykathy says: Aug 5, 2012 3:35 PM

    “whether it’s appropriate to hammer the Saints for doing something that every team at nearly every level of the sport does — rewarding players for clean, legal hits that send those on the receiving end to the sidelines, whether for one play or the rest of the game.”

    ***********************************

    This is exactly what I have been saying from Day 1. Football at EVERY level does exactly what the Saints are being punished for. I have heard worse talk from my boys high scool coaches than what Greg Williams said in his 49ers PEP TALK.

    When my boys were in Pop Warner and high school they were rewarded for clean hard hits.

    I have no problem whatsover with the rants of my sons coaches to get the team fired up, and I have no problem with them being rewarded for hard clean hits. That is football folks, not square dancing.

    Goodell’s agenda is clear, everyone with even an ounce of brains knows this is a sham.

  3. genericuser8888 says: Aug 5, 2012 3:36 PM

    Roger went on national television talking about how the Saints were intending to injure. Then, Jeff Pash went on television talking about how intent did not matter.

    It’s inconsistencies like these that make the NFL look silly. I mean, which is it? They undermine their own position with doublespeak and make the players position look better.

  4. packhawk04 says: Aug 5, 2012 3:54 PM

    At first, the players said this never took place. Then, maybe it did but they were just following orders, so its not their fault. Its inconsistencies like that that make the NFL’s case look better. I mean, which is it?

  5. omegaichiban says: Aug 5, 2012 3:56 PM

    Bounty schmounty, the hardest we’ve seen Cromartie hit someone in years, is Holmes, and he came nowhere near his ribs. our once great league has turned into a paddy cake, bakers man touch football tourney.

  6. harryglyphics says: Aug 5, 2012 4:50 PM

    There is something fishy about this. There is something we are not being told. And here is what it is: The question is not money-for-performance and/or injury; it’s where the money came from. And I say that Mike Ornstein guy had a lot more to do with than we are being told.

  7. jchuber says: Aug 5, 2012 6:29 PM

    After bounty-gate and the next CBA, you will see goodell selling hot dogs and beer to NFL fans.
    Thats right, roger, what goes around, comes around. And you have created so many enemies.
    Oh wait, maybe ypu can kiss more owner butt, and coach a hockey league.

  8. genericuser8888 says: Aug 5, 2012 6:35 PM

    @packhawk04

    The players said a “bounty” program didn’t exist, as in a “pay to injure” program didn’t exist. Then the NFL came out and said that “bounty” was BOTH pay to injure and pay for performance. So, the players said that yes, we did have a pay-for-performance program, but not a pay to injure program. The players said they were “following orders” to participate in the lockerroom pay for performance program, but not in a pay for injury program, which did not exist. The whole thing is sematic. Even now, the NFLPA and Saints players say yes, we admitted to “cart off” bonuses, but that “cart offs” were not defined in the Saints locker room in the manner that the NFL defines them.

    Of course, these subtleties might be lost on you, and many others, but we’ll see rather soon whether or not they are lost on the federal judge. …Vilma had numerous people show up and testify at court, under penalty of perjury if they lied…the NFL…well, let’s just say that Mary Jo and the NFL investigators….nobody took the stand on their behalf.

  9. cwwgk says: Aug 5, 2012 7:33 PM

    @genericruiser8888: the NFL didn’t put on any witnesses because they didn’t have to. Vilma has the burden of proof, not the league. The fact that Vilma felt the need to have eight different people testify to the same thing shows how big of a burden he faces. In addition, the judge is not deciding whether the suspensions were justified. Instead, the issue is whether Goodell followed the procedures in the CBA in handing out the suspensions.

    Of course, these subtleties may be lost on you.

  10. geauxjay says: Aug 5, 2012 8:08 PM

    Why does Roger get to redefine the term every time he is proven wrong? No wonder he won’t let the players see the evidence and defend themselves.

  11. georgeblanda says: Aug 5, 2012 8:09 PM

    I’m sorry Kattykathy, but since you used the term “anyone with an once of brains” … It is beyond comprehension that you actually think it would be OK for a Pop Warner or High School coach to give the same speech that Gregg Williams gave prior the the Forty Niner game. What world to you live in? BTW, I find it hard to believe you have heard “worse” from high school coaches. If you have, they should be fired. It is fine to take the side of the Saint on this issue, but you might try to pay attention to the concussion issue in sports just a little. Do you realize that the frontal lobe of the brain is not even fully formed in some humans until their mid-20′s? I don’t think we want Pop Warner coaches telling their players to see if the other player has fully recovered from his past concussion.

  12. rhodeislandpatriotsfan says: Aug 5, 2012 8:23 PM

    In my opinion, the league’s characterization of the alleged “pay-for-performance/bounty program” has been both unambiguous and consistent since Day One of this controversy. On the legal front, it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point all this gets before the Fifth Circuit, an appellate court that may be more sympathetic to Goodell’s—and the league’s—interpretation on questions of law.

  13. geauxjay says: Aug 5, 2012 8:37 PM

    rhodeislandpatriotsfan,

    You cannot possibly be serious. First Vilma is giving teammates thousands of dollars to cripple Brett Favre. Now Goodell is basically saying that if a player got some money for a good, hard, LEGAL hit that just so happened to hurt somebody, it counts?

    Get out of here with that. If the Patriots were accused, you’d feel different.

  14. musicman495 says: Aug 6, 2012 1:20 AM

    Talk is cheap, Roger. We have already had your “opinions” on the evidence, and seen you and the NFL spend the last five months stumble, bumble, and moonwalk away from your initial characterizations of the evidence and the offenses. The time has come to prove it. Either show someone the evidence – a Federal judge, the accused, their attorneys, the public, or all of the above – or SHUT UP and get rid of the suspensions.

  15. jcnuk says: Aug 6, 2012 5:06 AM

    @genericuser8888
    “Vilma had numerous people show up and testify at court, under penalty of perjury if they lied”

    Why weren’t Payton or Williams called on to testify on his behalf? Goodell has no power to deny that?

  16. pobreezy says: Aug 8, 2012 1:57 AM

    I can’t stand these un-informed comments of misguided biased people to the point were I can stand to be silent no longer. Everything that i’m about to comment on has been reported in forums, articles, appeals hearing transcripts and court testimony. It has been said before but it seems as though no one has been curious enough to look in to it but feel as though they can add to the vitriol that has been consistent for the past few months from everyone from skip bayless to Joe shmoe with internet access.
    I will state that I am a born and raised saints fan, so up front, I am bias. But because of that, I have been very serious about this subject. There are 3 points I will reiterate
    1) terms. “Cart-off” is a player having to leave the game from a legal hit for a few plays, ie knocking the wind out of them.
    “Whack” is a legal hit applied by a defensive back that targets a player below the knees/ankles.
    “Kill the head” is performing a legal defensive hit on any opposing player that stops the opposing player from falling forward. Stopping the head from facing the endzone in an attempt to diminish the player’s mental state.
    2) suspensions. Greg Williams and Sean Payton are suspended until the point that Roger Goodell and ONLY Roger Goodell reinstate them under dubiously vague conditions such as “full compliance of NFL regulations”.
    Joe Vitt does not have a reinstatement pending therefore he does not have to concern himself with complying with the NFL’s “conditions” which allows him to dispute the claims levied against him and his team.
    3) charges. This is probably most important as this is the reason so many people have voiced their opinion of “i am sick of hearing about this subject”. Initially, it was stated by Goodell that saints players targeted specific players in an attempt to injure them. Over time, it has been revealed that this is not the case and has not been clarified as such to this day. To hear the NFL spokesmen speak the same charges stand as they did almost 5 months ago. Though that is certainly not the case, it has not changed the opinion that from coaches to players to upper management, the New Orleans Saints intentionally injured players to win their first ever superbowl that they didn’t deserve because they cheated. Plain and simple. Black and white. Though between 2009 and 2011 the Saints injured the 2nd fewest players in the league and ranked a consistent lower teens or less in league for penalties.
    I hope people aren’t hating my saints just because they beat their favorite team once or don’t like drew brees’ birth mark, because this team means a lot to me and a LOT of other people for more than winning games. They made us glad we stayed in our home, and glad that the thing we felt ashamed of can be our most proud moment. You don’t have to like the saints, but stop hating my team if you don’t know why you hate them.
    Thank you Mr. Florio for giving myself, and many others, a consistent dose of information that sheds an honest light on this ridiculous circus side show that has taken us all out of what we want most. Football.

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