Before Monday, the NFL refused to disclose the name of Saints bounty whistleblower Mike Cerullo, keeping his name concealed despite relying on the evidence he provided in suspending four players. On Monday, the NFL decided to disclose a sworn statement signed by Cerullo in May 2012, necessarily shedding his anonymity.
The league has issued a statement indicating that it was Cerullo’s idea to allow his name to be disclosed.
“Mike Cerullo should be commended for coming forward,” the NFL said. “The information and detail he provided was credible and has since been confirmed in numerous respects both by other witnesses and by supporting documents. It is unfortunate that some have sought to unfairly attack his integrity rather than give attention to the substance of his declaration.”
But if Cerullo’s sworn statement is completely credible, a portion of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ sworn statement necessarily isn’t. USA Today has links to both of the statements, and the most glaring discrepancy arises from Cerullo’s contention that he gave Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s $10,000 postseason quarterback bounty prize to Williams for safekeeping; Williams says he never saw a dime of it. Likewise, Cerullo says the offer was first made before the 2009 divisional playoff game between the Saints and the Cardinals, with quarterback Kurt Warner being the target — and that Vilma then reiterated the offer before the game against the Vikings and quarterback Brett Favre. Williams makes no mention whatsoever of Vilma making any offer prior to the Cardinals game.
From Vilma’s perspective, the fact that the NFL is trying after the record of evidence was closed in June to bolster its case should be troubling. But the reality is that, if/when Vilma is suspended, a new appeals hearing will be conducted before Commissioner Roger Goodell. At that time, Cerullo and Williams will have to testify — and lawyer Peter Ginsberg will have an opportunity to eviscerate both of them.
It’s no secret — and definitely not news — that Ginsberg has had Cerullo in his sights. Vilma’s July lawsuit challenging his suspension outed Cerullo as the whistleblower, alleging hat the Saints fired Cerullo after he “disappear[ed] from the Club during the 2009 Season and provid[ed] a pretextual excuse that was shown to be inaccurate,” that he “disappear[ed] from the Club during the week leading up to the Super Bowl in 2010, again giving a pretextual excuse that was shown to be inaccurate,” that he received “a cubic zirconia Super Bowl ring facsimile rather than a genuine Super Bowl ring, for which Cerullo has strenuously and vehemently expressed his resentment,” that he “pledged revenge against the Saints,” and particularly against assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt. It paints a picture of Cerullo as a many with a vendetta to exact against the Saints, which prevents the possibility of exaggeration or embellishment from being completely disregarded.
Surely, Cerullo didn’t decide out of the blue to allow his name to be tied to the case. The facts and circumstances support a reasonable inference that the league has been trying to persuade Cerullo to morph from whistleblower to full-blown witness, and that the league finally managed to talk Cerullo into fully cooperating once the appeals panel gave the league office a procedural Mulligan. When Cerullo testifies, it’ll be interesting to see what he has to say about why he changed his mind.