We learned last weekend, via Chris Mortensen of ESPN, that the bounty appeal hearings conducted by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will consume several days, making them look more like a courtroom proceeding than the cursory “you’ll get nothing and like it” protocol that the NFL had intended to employ with Commissioner Roger Goodell presiding over the case.
But the question continues to be who will — and who won’t — testify.
CBS has reported that former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo will participate. His testimony becomes critical in light of his sworn statement and his email to the league office from last November, which dusted off a cold case and set the entire bounty process in motion.
But CBS reports that, while the players involved in the bounty appeal have been told that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will testify, Williams has “rejected repeated overtures to do so and continues to do so.”
There’s an easy solution to the problem. The NFL needs to tell Williams that he’ll participate, or he’ll never coach or consult or have any connection of any kind to the NFL again.
Already, Williams will have a hard time ever coaching again in the NFL, given the content of a sworn statement that fairly can be characterized as tattling on one of his players, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Right or wrong, plenty of NFL players will neither trust Williams nor have any respect for him.
But it’s believed that Gregg Williams will, once his suspension ends, become a consultant for the Rams, studying film and working on game plans away from the locker room and the practice field. The league, which expressly has conditioned his reinstatement on the extent to which he cooperates with future proceedings, needs to simply tell Williams that, if he doesn’t testify, he’ll never be reinstated.
And Tagliabue needs to tell the NFL that, if Williams isn’t compelled to appear, his sworn statement will be regarded as inadmissible and irrelevant.
While no proceeding of this nature entails subpoena power, the NFL has the ability to force its employees to cooperate, or risk consequences to their jobs. If the NFL chooses not to use that power over Williams, the league should be prevented from using any of the evidence he has provided.