Skip to content

Tagliabue’s ruling doesn’t undermine Vilma’s defamation case

Vilma Getty Images

When assessing the decision made by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to overturn the suspensions imposed on four players, it’s important to understand both what he says and what he doesn’t say.That’s particularly important when assessing the contention that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game, since Vilma’s denial of that claim provides the basis for his defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Early in the 22-page ruling, Tagliabue explains that he is “not reviewing Commissioner Goodell’s October 9, 2012 findings and conclusions de novo.”  Those last two words are a common Latin legal term, which mean “from scratch.”

Basically, Tagliabue didn’t build the house of facts all over again.

“If the parties had intended such a review, they would have written it into the CBA,” Tagliabue says.  “Instead, I am giving appropriate deference to Commissioner Goodell’s reasonable findings and am applying the same standard of review to findings of violation and to findings underlying the level of discipline.  I am not substituting my judgment for the Commissioner’s judgment, except insofar as I have received and considered new material information of which the Commissioner was unaware.  In this instance, based on both the prior record and additional information, I am reviewing the discipline for consistency of treatment, uniformity of standards for parties similarly situated and patent unfairness or selectivity.”

In other words, Tagliabue acted like a traditional appeals court, declining to start the case over and taking advantage of the work that already has been done.  This distinction becomes critical when assessing whether and to what extent Tagliabue’s finding impacts Vilma’s pending lawsuit.

As to the most important factual question presented by the appeal process, Tagliabue doesn’t determine that Vilma offered a bounty on Favre.  Instead, Tagliabue “find[s] there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell’s findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty.”

In other words, Tagliabue believes it was reasonable for Goodell to conclude based on the evidence that Vilma offered a bounty.  But the opposite proposition also could have been accurate — that it would have been reasonable to conclude that Vilma didn’t offer a true and actual bounty.

Indeed, Tagliabue implicitly reached the latter conclusion, since he wasn’t willing to suspend Vilma because Tagliabue couldn’t conclude that the “talk” from Vilma amounted to a real threat, as opposed to “rhetoric and exaggeration.”

“[T]here is little evidence of the tone of any talk about a bounty before the Vikings game,” Tagliabue writes.  “Was any bounty pledged serious?  Was it inspirational only?  Was it typical ‘trash talk’ that occurs regularly before and during games?  The parties presented no clear answers.  No witness could confirm whether Vilma had any money in his hands as he spoke; no evidence was presented that $10,000 was available to him for purposes of paying a bounty or otherwise.  There was no evidence that Vilma or anyone else paid any money to any player for any bounty-related hit on an opposing player in the Vikings game.”

In other words, Tagliabue wasn’t able to determine that the words uttered by Vilma were real, that he meant what he said and intended to act on it.

Tagliabue used that specific occasion to give more passive-aggressive, big-picture advice to his successor:   “It is essential to recognize that Vilma is being most severely disciplined for ‘talk’ or speech at a team meeting on the evening before the Saints-Vikings game. He is not being punished for his performance on the field and, indeed, none of the discipline of any player here relates to on-field conduct. No Saints’ player was suspended for on-field play by the League after the game in question. If the League wishes to suspend a player for pre-game talk including ‘offers’ to incentivize misconduct, it must start by imposing enhanced discipline for illegal hits that involve the kind of player misconduct that it desires to interdict. The relationship of the discipline for the off-field ‘talk’ and actual on-field conduct must be carefully calibrated and reasonably apportioned. This is a standard grounded in common sense and fairness.  It rests also on the competence of NFL officiating and the obligation and ability of the League to closely observe playing field misconduct, record it and review for illegal hits or other related misconduct.”

For Vilma’s defamation case, none of this matters.  He insists he didn’t make the offer, others insist he did, and eventually someone else will have to consider the evidence and make factual decisions “from scratch.”  In this regard, the transcript of the testimony from the Tagliabue appeal hearing could be very useful, since the witnesses will have a hard time disowning the testimony they’ve already provided under oath.

The fact that Vilma’s lawyer has called upon Tagliabue to release the transcript publicly suggests that the totality of the testimony could help Vilma.

Thus, regardless of Tagliabue’s belief that Goodell’s conclusion that Vilma made the offer was reasonable, others will eventually tackle that question within the confines of civil litigation, and there’s a chance that Tagliabue’s emphasis on the difference between words and actions will cause the judge and/or the jury to think that Goodell didn’t exercise enough care in distinguishing the two as he should have before publicly painting Vilma as a thug.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Home, New Orleans Saints, Rumor Mill
yo

Washington to put Bobby Beathard in Ring of Fame

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 1991:  General Manager Bobby Beathard of the San Diego Chargers stands on the deck of his home on September 1991 in Leucadia, California. (Photo by Andy Hayt via Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when Washington hopes it has found its next Bobby Beathard in Scot McCloughan, the original Bobby Beathard will join the ranks of the team’s all-time greats.

Washington has announced that Beathard will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame.

Serving as G.M. from 1978 through 1988, Beathard built a team that went to three Super Bowls, winning two.

He becomes the 49th member of the Ring of Fame. Most recently, Monte Coleman joined the list in December 2015.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Roddy White has interest, but wants more than the minimum

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23: Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons stands on the field during warm ups prior to a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome on August 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some say that receiver Roddy White’s expression of reluctance to sign with a non-contender means he has no viable options anywhere. That’s apparently not the case.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, White was — and still is — on the radar in Tennessee. But he won’t accept a minimum-salary offer. Andre Johnson did, which is why he was recently signed.

But with Johnson’s deal not guaranteed, the Titans can kick tires and, if they decide he can’t truly help the team, move on. Possibly back to White.

Other teams to watch for White include the obvious dot-connection to the Buccaneers, where former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is the head coach.

Regardless of where White ends up, it’s apparently going to take more than the one-year veteran minimum to make it happen. Before a team gets to the point where it’s willing to pay that much, it likely will need to evaluate what it currently has.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dion Jordan rejoins the Dolphins

Dion Jordan AP

On Friday, the NFL reinstated defensive end Dion Jordan. On Saturday, Jordan rejoined the Dolphins.

He is in the building,” coach Adam Gase said, via the team’s official website. “There’s a certain protocol that the league has put out as far as what we need to follow. We’re allowed to have certain conversations. He’s allowed to do certain type of things or certain areas that he’s allowed to be around. Obviously, we’re taking everything very slowly.

“We’re trying to make sure that we do everything by the book, exactly the way the league wants us to do it. He’s trying to do a good job of doing exactly what he’s told to do. We are like, you talk about like step one of like 500. It’s going to take some time for us to make sure that we do every little thing right for this thing to turn out the right way.”

If Jordan is on the roster as of Monday, the Dolphins will owe him a $1.7 million roster bonus. However, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald has explained, the Dolphins will retain the roster bonus as partial repayment of the $3.35 million he owes the team in signing bonus money forfeited via his past suspensions.

The CBA allows teams to retain bonus money and salary in order to settle debts over forfeited bonus money. This means that Jordan could be working for free in 2016 and beyond in order to justify retention of the $3.35 million he owes the Dolphins in the wake of his most recent suspension.

That said, the Dolphins could still choose to sever ties with Jordan, avoiding the $1.7 million and still retaining the right to pursue the $3.35 million. For now, it seems they’ll welcome Jordan back, help him stay in the league’s good graces — and help themselves to his $1.7 million bonus and up to another $1.65 million in future pay.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jonathan Cooper carted off

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 24:  Offensive guard Jonathan Cooper #61 of the Arizona Cardinals is looked at by trainers and the team doctor after he broke his left fibula while attempting a tackle against the San Diego Chargers during the preseason NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 24, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Along with getting a second-round pick for defensive end Chandler Jones, the Patriots received failed former first-round offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. The top-10 pick washed out of Arizona due in part to a chronic inability to stay healthy.

In New England, Cooper already is injured.

Per multiple reports, Cooper was carted off on Saturday. It’s apparently a foot problem.

Rookie Ted Karras took over for Cooper, who is in his contract year and has every incentive to play and play well for the Patriots.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

DeAndre Hopkins didn’t leave camp; he never reported

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29:  DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing against the New Orleans Saints on November 29, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The image created by the ESPN report that Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkinswalked out of camp” is jarring on the surface, inviting the visualization of Hopkins making a one-handed catch in the end zone, spiking the ball, and heading out the tunnel, Bo Jackson-style.

The truth, per a source with knowledge of the situation, is that Hopkins did not report for camp. While the result is the same (he’s not there), the procedures are much different.

For a player under contract who does not report, he is subject to fines in the amount of $40,000 per day and possible signing bonus forfeiture. For a player who shows up and then leaves, things can quickly escalate into the ultimate lose-lose outcome.

When a player reports for camp and then later leaves, the team has the ability to send a letter warning him that, in five days, the club has the right to place him on the reserve/left squad list. The standard “five-day letter” explains to the player that, if they do place him in that category, he can’t play again this season. After sending the letter and the expiration of the five-day period, the club does not have to place the player on the reserve/left squad list, but it may.

With a player like Hopkins, the idea that the Texans would shut him down for the full season is a little ridiculous. Still, if Hopkins didn’t report the “five-day letter” can’t be sent, giving the Texans significantly less leverage in the looming standoff.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

DeAndre Hopkins walks out of Texans camp

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28:   DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans reacts to a call during the second half of their game against the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins wants more money, and he’s holding out to get it.

Hopkins left training camp and began a holdout this morning, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Last week, Hopkins said he wants the Texans to pay him “what I’m worth,” but he did not elaborate on his feelings. By walking out of camp, he has made his feelings clear.

As the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Hopkins is heading into the fourth year of his rookie contract, and he’s due a base salary of $1 million this year. That’s a bargain for a player of Hopkins’ quality, but it’s what the Collective Bargaining Agreement dictates.

Next year, the Texans can keep Hopkins by picking up his fifth-year option and paying him $7.915 million. Hopkins is obviously looking for a deal that would pay him considerably more than $8.915 million over the next two years, and more for a few years after that as well.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Michael Bennett “in town” as Seahawks open camp

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20: Defensive lineman Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks takes the field wearing a Darth Vader mask during player introductions before a football game against the Cleveland Browns at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks won the game 30-13. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) Getty Images

Recent quotes from Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett created the impression that he possibly would stay away from training camp, due to lingering unhappiness with his contract.

NFL Media reports that, with the Seahawks opening camp on Saturday, Bennett is “in town.”

Whether he’s “in town” and whether he shows up for camp could be two different propositions. Agent Doug Hendrickson was expected to meet with the Seahawks at some point this week about Bennett’s contract. It’s unclear whether the meeting already has happened.

Bennett’s presence could be a sign that a new deal has been reached, or it could mean that Hendrickson wants Bennett to be “in town” and ready to go in order to dangle to the team the ability to get Bennett to camp right away, if a holdout happens while talks continue.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Chargers befuddled by Bosa’s position, but maybe they shouldn’t be

la-joey-bosa-roger-goodell-20160428 AP

It’s a holdout about nothing, at least from the team’s perspective.

With defensive end Joey Bosa, the third overall pick in the draft, officially absent for the start of camp, the team is left to wonder why.

Per a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, the Chargers view the impasse as “strange,” given that every penny of Bosa’s slotted contract is fully and completely guaranteed. The franchise looks at the remaining areas of the dispute as minimal and trivial, given that most if not all other players on the roster: (1) have offset language attached to their guaranteed money; and (2) accept a deferred percentage of their signing bonus until March of the following year.

The problem seems to be that the Chargers are looking at the negotiation from the perspective of team precedent, and that Bosa’s agents are looking at it from the perspective of third-overall-pick precedent. Which is how most agents and teams usually view such negotiations.

So, from that perspective, it would be just as easy for Bosa and his agents to call the team’s position “strange.”

The cash-flow issue seems small on the surface, given interest rates. But these are significant dollars, with the team trying to retaining the ability to invest or otherwise use the money into next year and the player wanting the money now.  Also, the issue is bigger than when the money will be paid; it’s a matter of the new rookie wage scale giving teams and agents very little to negotiate when doing these deals. Cash flow regarding the signing bonus is one of the few issues left.

Other players taken at the top of the first round have gotten all of their signing bonus now, or will have it all by October. Bosa is looking to be treated the same way as those players; the Chargers are looking to treat Bosa the same way they have treated other players. (The fact that the Chargers typically don’t draft in the top five could be the primary reason for the impasse.)

As to offset language, that issue continues to be a matter of cleaning up the worst-case scenario of a guy getting cut before his four-year contract ends. If it comes to that, whether the Chargers pay the balance of the deal or get credit for the low-end contract Bosa would get elsewhere is a small part of the far bigger problem that they took Bosa when they could have had Jalen Ramsey or some other player who becomes great.

It will be much harder for Bosa to become great right away, if he misses much practice time. And it will be much harder for the Chargers to win at the ballot box in November, if Bosa isn’t great right away. The smart move for both sides would be to find a way to compromise. For now, with team and player dug in on both offsets and cash flow, it’s going to require someone to blink in the name of the greater goals that both sides have for the relationship.

Permalink 23 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Eagles add Brian Dawkins to scouting staff

84673518 Getty Images

As the Eagles continue the process of mashing the reset button on a franchise that drifted from its desired path under Chip Kelly, they’re bringing home one of the team’s all-time greatest.

The Eagles have added safety Brian Dawkins to the scouting staff.

The eight-time Pro Bowler and team Hall of Fame member joins the operation under the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, a brand-new effort to introduce former players to scouting.

Dawkins had worked in the media after he retired. His return to the Eagles will be welcomed by plenty of Eagles fans who are still upset that he was once cut.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Raiders announce contract extension for G.M. Reggie McKenzie

Reggie McKenzie AP

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has collected some fine young talent with the likes of quarterback Derek Carr, receiver Amari Cooper and defensive end Khalil Mack. Now McKenzie has been rewarded for that.

The Raiders have announced that McKenzie has signed a four-year contract extension and is now under contract through the 2021 draft.

“Reggie’s contract was up at the end of this year, and we felt was time to reward him for the job that he has done,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said.

The Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002, but they’re trending in the right direction, and Davis thinks McKenzie’s personnel decisions will be the key to bringing a championship to Oakland. Or Las Vegas.

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bears extend Willie Young

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Bears pass rusher Willie Young will be sticking in Chicago for a few more years.

Young and the Bears have agreed to a two-year extension through 2018, Adam Caplan of ESPN reports. Young had been entering the final season of the three-year contract he signed in 2014. The 30-year-old Young says he hopes to retire as a Bear.

Last year Young led the Bears with 12 tackles for loss and was second on the Bears with 6.5 sacks. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 39 yards, and knocked down two passes.

A 2010 seventh-round pick of the Lions, Young played four years in Detroit before leaving for Chicago in free agency. He had a career-high 10 sacks in 2014.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Brett Favre describes his battle with painkiller addiction

FAVRE AP

A week from today, Brett Favre will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But while we’ll be hearing a lot about his career highlights in the coming days, Favre spoke recently about his lowest moment as a football player.

Favre told Graham Bensinger that the prescription painkiller addiction he beat 20 years ago nearly took control of his life.

“I took 15 Vicodin at one time,” Favre said. “Two gave me an effect I liked. After a month, two didn’t do anything, so I’d take three . . . and then four and so on. . . . I knew that 15 was hard to come by. A month’s prescription is 30 pills or something, depending on what they prescribe for you, and I was going through that in two days. I would ask this guy for pills and that guy for pills, after a while I was going back around pretty quickly.”

Favre makes no excuses for his behavior at that time.

“I knew what I was doing — I knew that I didn’t necessarily need it but I sure liked the way it felt, and I knew it was wrong,” Favre said.

Eventually, Favre made the decision that he had to stop.

“I’d hit rock bottom and I said, I’m going to flush these down the toilet. I remember when I poured them in the toilet and it started to flush, I almost crawled into the toilet to go after them because I thought, ‘What in the world did you do?’ I was so dependent on them,” he said.

Favre says that he actually should have worked with a doctor to wean himself off the painkillers, and he probably harmed himself by how suddenly he stopped.

“I just went cold turkey,” he said. “That was the worst month. I shook every night, cold sweats, it was a constant battle.”

Favre believes his love of football is what pulled him through.

“The one constant through all that was football, and for me, it was a good place to escape,” he said. “It gave me a way to escape but also feel like I was actually doing something good.”

Permalink 33 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Ex-NFL player Antonio Armstrong and wife killed by their teen son

antonioarmstrong

Former NFL linebacker Antonio Armstrong and his wife were shot and killed by their teenage son in their home in Houston on Friday, police say.

Police were called to the Armstrongs’ home around 1:30 a.m. in response to shots fired, the Houston Chronicle reports. Dawn Armstrong died at the scene and Antonio Armstrong died in the hospital a few hours later. KTRK reports that the couple’s 16-year-old son has been charged with murder. One of the couple’s two other children was at home at the time but was not harmed.

Relatives described the Armstrongs as a loving family and say they can’t imagine what could have led to such a situation.

“They kept them busy and they supported them in everything that they did. There was not any mark that they missed with their children,” a cousin of Daun Armstrong told the Houston Chronicle. “There was nothing that even could possibly have justified this situation. This doesn’t even make sense.”

Antonio Armstrong was an All-American linebacker at Texas A&M and a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1995. He played briefly for the Dolphins and Rams and then spent four seasons in the Canadian Football League. In retirement he has worked as a personal trainer and was well known in his community as a volunteer youth coach.

Photo via Facebook.

Permalink 35 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Coach fired for Dolphins bullying scandal now in trouble at Texas A&M

San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Jim Turner, the Dolphins offensive line coach who was fired for his role in a bullying scandal that embroiled the team, spent two years out of football after losing his job in Miami. This offseason he was hired at Texas A&M, where it didn’t take him long to get in trouble again.

Texas A&M has suspended Turner and tight ends coach Jeff Banks for two weeks without pay, and ordered them to complete 20 hours of community service, for inappropriate comments they made at an event for female fans.

Among the issues that surfaced at the event were changes to the school’s fight song, which presented lyrics including “We are Aggie women/We are filled with estrogen” and “We are putting down our dish towels/And taking off our gloves.”

The coaches also gave the women tips on playing football that were filled with sexual double entendres like “No penetration,” “Never bend over,” and “Don’t end up on your back.”

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin quickly moved to suspend Turner and Banks after reports of the sexist comments surfaced.

“There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone, regardless of intent,” Sumlin said in a statement.

Turner was fired after an NFL-commissioned investigation found that he fostered an atmosphere in which Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey regularly bullied teammate Jonathan Martin. Among the inappropriate actions Turner is alleged to have taken during his tenure as Dolphins offensive line coach was buying inflatable sex dolls for players as Christmas presents. Turner filed a defamation lawsuit against Ted Wells, the lawyer who led the NFL’s investigation.

Turner and Banks issued a joint statement in which they said, “We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program.”

Permalink 53 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Browns experimenting with Ogbah at 3-4 defensive end

BEREA, OH - JUNE 1, 2016: Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah #90 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in drills during an OTA on June 1, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Emmanuel Ogbah Getty Images

As a pass rusher, Browns rookie Emmanuel Ogbah naturally would play defensive end in a 4-3 defense and linebacker in a 3-4. In Cleveland, where the 3-4 remains the base defense, Ogbah spent the offseason as a linebacker. Now that camp has arrived, the Browns have given him a try at defensive end.

“We’re going to try a little bit of everything,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Friday. “We’re going to put our best players out there on defense. Obviously, we are going to try him there. We’re going to put him back at outside linebacker. We’re just trying to find a lot of different combinations now that Des [Bryant] is going to be down to see if we can put our best guys out there. If he gives us something there, then it’s going to help our football team. We’re going to try anything and everything that we can to give guys opportunities that showcase their abilities and talents.”

Jackson confirmed that Ogbah played linebacker exclusively during OTAs, with the switch happening only in training camp.

“We’re going to play him at defensive end some and take a good look at him,” Jackson said of Ogbah. “As you guys know, this time of the year is evaluation time for all of our football team. Now, you can do some of that. Move guys around and see what’s the best fit for our football team to help us win.”

Jackson disputed the notion that Ogbah moved to defensive end because of perceived difficulties with dropping into coverage as a linebacker during the offseason program. Instead, Jackson pointed out that having Ogbah play multiple positions gives the defense a greater degree of flexibility on defense.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top