NFLPA hires Fulbright & Jaworski for bounty probe

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Last week, an intriguing rumor was making the rounds regarding the involvement of attorney David Boies in the Saints’ bounty probe.  Boies, who represented the NFL in last year’s post-lockout antitrust action, later represented the NBA Players Association in a similar claim.

After ruling out the possibility that Boies was representing any of the Saints employees whose appeal hearings were held last week, we looked into the question of whether Boies had been hired by the NFLPA to represent individual players.  Fascinating as the prospect may have been, the rumor wasn’t true.  (One source jokingly compared the union hiring Boies to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones partnering with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, before saying, “Oh, wait . . . .”)

The truth, according to, is that the NFLPA has retained Richard Smith of Fulbright & Jaworski, an international law firm.  Smith chairs the firm’s Global White Collar Crime and Government Investigations practice group.

It’s unclear at this point whether Smith will represent individual players in any potential criminal charges or whether he will represent the players in any appeals filed after discipline is imposed by the NFL or whether he will simply advise the NFLPA.

The league has identified only linebacker Jonathan Vilma as having involvement in the bounty system, but the NFL has said 22-to-27 total players funded and/or received payments.  There are no specific indications at this point that any criminal charges will be pursued.

10 responses to “NFLPA hires Fulbright & Jaworski for bounty probe

  1. NFLPA hires law firm to defend players who target to injure other players and members of the same union. Who’s going to hire lawyers for the targeted players?

    Sounds like a bad movie. A really bad movie.

  2. Why do you keep saying criminal charges may be brought. Not one legal analyst has said this as a possibilIlty, it would be such a reach.

  3. From a football standpoint I’m somewhat interested in knowing how much the Saints wound up cheating the salary cap with extra off the books payments.

    Goodell might want to consider a separate punishment on par with what was done with the Broncos for cheating the cap in their two Super Bowl seasons.

    From a legal standpoint I’m intrigued to know where they draw the line between a game in which physical contact does result in injuries – and what would probably be an illegal side-ring in which players aren’t paid to achieve football goals, but rather specifically paid to inflict debilitating injury which, in the case of head and neck injuries, can result in death.

    In essence, where does football end and a paid hit squad begin?

    My guess is it’s probably where cash is offered under the table for injuries rather than points and yards.

  4. So when you say any chance to knock the starter out of the game should be embraced…

  5. duanethomas says:Apr 9, 2012 9:24 AM

    Why do you keep saying criminal charges may be brought. Not one legal analyst has said this as a possibilIlty, it would be such a reach.


    Isn’t paying someone to intentionally hurt another, across State lines a federal crime? Sure, I agree that filing that particular charge would be a stretch, but….haven’t we seen even thinner stretches make it through the courts and come down with a conviction? It entirely depends on how badly the NFL and it’s legion of lawyers want to hand it to the players. Remember, they need to appear as if they’re coming down on this like a ton of bricks…because you’ve got a serious potentil for lawsuits down the road, from players who may/may not have been injured during this.

  6. The punishment to players should be just to those that they can prove paid money to the bounties and/or their part in paying or offering bounties.

    There is no clear way to prove which players were actually trying for the bounties unless there were specific injuries that you can tie to both specific offerings, the corresponding injuries, and proof that the player collected said bounties.

    We know the Saints were offering them and that they lied about it. That is why the front office people got suspended.

  7. Interesting – not the last firm I would have imagined, but certainly not the first….or first 50. Fulbright’s recent public merger talks aside, it’s been a challenging last few years for this once very powerful firm.

  8. Prediction: F&J will use a “coercion” defense based on the Williams SF/NO playoff tape and avoid suspension for all or most of the players. There isn’t a juror anywhere in the country (that could make it onto the jury) that wouldn’t rule in favor of the players. Basically, the tape screwed up Goodell’s plans to come down hard on the players. DeMaurice Smith now has the ammunition he needs to play hardball that the bounties were institutionalized at the Saints and the players had to play along to keep their jobs. Looks like it’s going to fines, maybe one suspension (Vilma?) if the NFL has some really good evidence. Simply paying into the fund won’t be enough.

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