Reporters saw what players saw during bounty hearing

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As the disclosure of bounty evidence to a dozen reporters continues to reverberate, it’s important to understand what was — and wasn’t — shown to the hand-picked representatives of the NFL media.

Though full details remain incomplete and subject to dispute, given that the 12 members of the media may have perceived things differently, Peter King of Sports Illustrated writes that the reporters witnessed the same presentation that the suspended players (other than Jonathan Vilma) had seen.  Based on the transcript of the morning session, the players were due to hear a summary of the relevant evidence from outside counsel Mary Jo White.

That means the reporters didn’t hear directly from the witnesses.  Instead, the league provided a summary from a highly-skilled former prosecutor.  White also, per multiple reports, posed questions to NFL Security chief Jeff Miller.

So it was like a grand jury proceeding, but instead of calling witnesses the prosecutor told the grand jurors what the witnesses would have said.  With supplementation from the cop who ran the investigation.

It’s an important distinction, if the ultimate goal is to get to the truth.  With respect to the Anthony Hargrove declaration, the Mike Ornstein email, and the ledger that was sufficiently important to be leaked to the media but apparently not sufficiently important to make its way into the evidence given to the players, a reasonable person could conclude that the NFL has a habit of subtly (or not) twisting the evidence to fit a preordained conclusion.

Thus, when White told the reporters that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told investigators that he “rolled the dice with player safety and someone could have been maimed,” it’s impossible to know whether Williams made that admission during a soul-purging epiphany — or whether after finally being caught in years of lies regarding a pay-for-performance program and fearful for his career he simply nodded his head when investigators said, “Do you realize that you were rolling the dice with player safety and someone could have been maimed?”

There’s also a chance that “rolling the dice” didn’t relate to a bounty system but to the cartoonish language Williams used to get his players motivated.  If so, Williams was truly “rolling the dice” that someone would take his urgings seriously and whip out a Gillooly stick.

More importantly, lawyer Peter Ginsberg claims that Williams has since “retracted directly and affirmatively and without equivocation any claims they previously have made about a bounty program,” which remains fundamentally different from a pay-for-performance program.

Then there’s the brand-new contention, more than three months after the situation first arose, that Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt personally contributed $5,000 to the pay-for-performance/bounty pool prior to the 2009 NFC title game.  If that’s true, why did Vitt try to argue that Williams was a “rogue coach” during Vitt’s appeal hearing?  More importantly, how did Vitt not get at least a one-year suspension if he, like linebacker Jonathan Vilma, was offering money to a player for inflicting injury on an opponent?

So before any of the 12 reporters or those who follow their writings swallow the hook, let’s make sure that we remember what the reporters saw.  And what they didn’t see.

UPDATE 8:38 p.m. ET:  Here’s a piece of evidence that the 12 reporters surely didn’t see.  Lawyer David Cornwell tells PFT that his client, Joe Vitt, never was accused of contributing money to the pay-for-performance/bounty pool.

34 responses to “Reporters saw what players saw during bounty hearing

  1. Did Joe Vitt or Gregg Williams offer you bounty money to take down the league or do you just enjoy having a nice rant against the NFL?

  2. I’m surprised, a reporter actually trying to be objective to any and all information. No doubt the Saints had a pay for play’s system. But the NFL overreached by trying to use them as an example to push their so called player safety agenda…

  3. If you are innocent, you pound the law.. If you are guilty, you pound your fist…. And what exactly are most of the accused pounding? Looks like they are more interested in saving face to me.

    Saints fan, do yourself a favor and get over it. Stop letting Florio Fife get you all riled up… These players are not going to win any appeals.

  4. Joe Vitt has a strange aroma about him.

    Fujita is a liar, plain and simple. And yes, I do blame him, Mr Integrity, pfft.

    Vilma’s lieyer, Ginsbutt is a showman but not very good at drama in a real courtroom, especially a federal courtroom.

    The players need to retire and let the league move on.

    -Court of Public Opinion (COPO)

  5. Hey Peter King,
    I talked to your accountant and he told me you should pay me $50000. I also have a handwritten note from him telling you to pay me, so it must be true.

  6. Florio, at least try to mask your prejudice against the league that feeds your family. Dude, you know, I know, everyone knows something shady went on in the Saints locker room. This whole thing is just about some coach trying to rev up his players. Something wrong happened. I know the ex lawyer in you feels the needs to think this is a case in a court of law, but it’s not. Commissioner Goodell has a lot of leeway. He makes decisions for the best interest of the league. 90% of folks feel/know that deep down something wrong happened and Goodell did what he and his advisors feel is best for the NFL.

  7. While I agree that Vitt should’ve gotten the same suspension as Williams, Florio is over the top here.

    The NFL can present the evidence however they want to. The video alone sounds like it’s pretty damning. It seems now that the players were counting on Goodell to not show the evidence to the public.

    It seems like Florio and Ginsberg think that Williams needs to be sequestered away in witness protection before he can tell the “real story”. If Williams recanted, why hasn’t he told reporters? Seriously, how hard can it be to stick a microphone in his face and ask the question? I’d love to hear his take on the video.

  8. This whole thing is a mess (understatement of the week/month/year)

    1. If Williams did retract anything he said about a possible bounty system, he obviously realizes his career is over- Either stand by saying that the bounties existed and have your reputation as a players-coach ruined (not get hired) or take it back and make your indefinite suspension permanent (not have a chance to get hired)

    2. If youre Anthony Hargrove, why sign any declaration that a bounty system may have existed? Once you do that, you have to know that you are bringing a lot of scrutiny to a) what was actually going on and b)the fact that a bunch of people lied about it, and made it seem worse by doing so

    3. The NFL has handled this so poorly that even if a bounty system did exist, their handling of the penalties and proceedings can actually overshadow the actual infractions (whatever they end up being)

    All comes back to when the league caught the Saints with their pants down. The Saints should have just ended the system (pay-for-performance or bounty) then, instead of continuing it.

    If bounties were in fact never a part of what was going on, the coaches’, GM’s, and Hargrove’s suspensions should all be upheld regardless and the rest of the players have a reasonable claim to have their suspensions repealed

  9. Ok, even to the people who are Saints haters…have we not all learned that every shred of so called proof has either been flip flopped or somehow changed throughout this whole process? I mean really, the ledger, Charles Grant getting paid when he was on injured reserve for a knockout he couldn’t have done, the buffalo game turning into the carolina game and back, harper getting paid for a cart off when in reality NOT ONE PLAYER WAS CARTED OFF during the so called game. At what point is Goddell and the rest of you idiots going to realize that as much as you want this to be about the Saints being dirty, it’s really about Goodell trying to make himself look like he cares about player safety while the concussion suit is going on.

    Someone on the other post asked why would Goodell risk this all if he knows he has no real evidence…easy, to take the camera’s off his HUGE dilemma of what he’s going to do about the concussion suits, which if you don’t realize, will cripple the NFL’s cash flow and re-write how players get paid. PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THIS?!?!?!

  10. And we all get it, this is not a court of law for all the goodell flamers. U don’t like the stories, don’t read them. You don’t like saints fans comments, don’t read them

  11. The players are going to say what they want. There could be a video of them paying each other and stating exactly that the money is for knocking people out of the game, and they would still say it’s not good enough evidence.

  12. What beats me is all the intrigue around the evidence. Surely the league can see its becoming a laughing stock the more this drags on.
    Just release all the evidence they have and be done with it.
    If it’s really a case of them not having “compelling” evidence, R-Good’s goose is cooked.

  13. sxt004-

    Its not as much being a “saints hater” as it is how the saints fans reacted to the news coming out about possible bounties and any piece of news that might discredit the claims since.

    Personal experience: Since that SB win, I have lived in Louisiana, and saints fans have felt entitled to success ever since. That sense of entitlement swelled when the bounty news came out to “well the league owes us one now”, as if all bad things should lead to a good thing (there was a sense of rationalizing that the Super Bowl was for all the years the team stunk-and when they had fewer fans, come to think of it)

    And here is a question to end it: Would you rather cheer for a team that was found to have played extremely dirty for the time they began to achieve success or a team that, once they began to achieve the kind success 80-90% of teams dream of, they applied the screws to the primary reason they started to achieve that success (and lucked out with, to be frank)?

    And if Saints fans knew anything, they would know that Payton’s suspension is the only thing that means anything. Vilma’s career was on the downslope to begin with (and he might not have even made the team this year), Smith has always been overrated, and the rest of the players arent even there anymore. The only reason Vitt’s is remotely relevant is that he would have ended up covering for Payton in his absence and Loomis’s would have had no effect on the field.

  14. SXT004 You have no idea what you’re talking about. Williams wouldn’t have apologized if nothing happened. The NFL had the referees rig the 2009 NFC Champ games for the Saints, why would they turn on them just a few years later?

  15. Can you say “WITCH HUNT”; The more I hear and read about this Saints bounty system, the more I think the NFL went overboard, and all of the evidence is suspect. Probably just hearsay evidence from a disgruntled former Saint!

  16. Blah blah blah… They cheated, got caught, and are now acting like a bunch of kids trying to lie after mom sees them digging in the cookie jar. “I wasn’t going to eat the cookies, I just wanted to see if they were there.” Uh huh, sure.

    And its obvious Florio is trying to spin for the players. Enough already. We all heard the tape and theres no taking it back. Even as a Seahawk fan, I found it disgusting to hear them trying to target Crabtree and Smith. The only thing worse is their attempt to paint it as motivational speech. Even Michael Irving thought it was sick and wrong, and that says a lot.

  17. And if the league heeded retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal’s advice to refer the matter for RICO appraisal, all appeals would soon and/or likely cease.

  18. Mike.. I know you don’t want to toot your own horn, but I get the feeling the last person they want with access to the evidence is a lawyer turned football blogger.

    I also find it interesting that the Commissioner strategically released this during the NBA finals. I suspect the next chapter won’t play out until the World Series starts.

  19. Whatever happened to holding coaches to a higher standard (like they did Wade Wilson), course I forgot that Rog let the Pats & Darth Hoodie off the hook for ACTUALLY cheating and throwing the “integrity of the game/shield” out the window! For Darth tho it helps when your boss (Kraft) is “BFF” w/Rog

  20. At sxt004

    The question of wether they were GOOD at hurting players isn’t really a big concern. If you’d like the record to show that they were crooked AND incompetent at it, I’m fine with that.

    That being said I do believe that Goodell is being a bit too holier than thou on this and my gut tells me this is something that goes beyond the Saints.

    Goodell’s M.O is to demonize any one or any team that makes him look bad as commissioner. I think a lot of people realize this too.

  21. Just saw the Hargrove video – Saints are in serious trouble – if Im the Vikings I would be pissed off all those late hits must have effected Farve a bit, no bounty Vikes probably win that game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Saints look like a bunch of creeps and d-bags

    Most hated franchise ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and Im a JETS fan and everyone hates the J-E-T-S jets jets jets…

  23. Evidence? The evidence I have seen in the NFL culture is that profit (owners and NFLPA) and winning (players and coaches) far outweigh personal or corporate responsibility.

    I expect extreme spin-control from the NFL. It is a money-making enterprise. The NFL’s primary (though not exclusive) goal is to expand it’s popularity and consumer base. The NFL walks a fine line between providing an entertaining product and maximizing profit from those who are entertained. Whether that is a positive or negative goal is a matter of opinion.

    The current players and coaches directly benefit from the league’s primary focus on retaining and expanding the popularity (i.e. marketing) of the NFL. However, to players and coaches the exclusive goal is WINNING. It always has been so. Most fans (consumers) also value team success over the success of individual players.

    This focus on team success is most evident during star player “holdouts”. The holdout player’s teammates and coaches uncomfortably straddle the line between “he deserves more money” and “his holdout is hurting our chances of winning/success”.

    Coaches, veteran players and team executives use many methods to enhance player/team performance. This includes both positive and negative (extreme peer pressure and emotional manipulation) methods to achieve maximum player and team performance.

    No one gets out of this one unscathed. The NFL, NFLPA, owners, coaches and players are all equally guilty. Guilty of placing profit and victories above the health and welfare of others.

  24. It just disgust me to read the large number of sheep that man this site.

    Keep it up Mike! There are many independent thinkers on here who realize that absolute power leads to absolute corruption. Roger Goodell is proving that theory daily, and this bounty gate stuff is just another bullet point of tyranny run amuck.

  25. What makes you think the ultimate goal is to get to the truth? Everything we have (or haven’t) seen strongly suggests otherwise

  26. Florio i applaud your willingness to seek the truth. Dont listen to what the haters above say. There is nothing wrong with seeking the truth and fair justice. Keep hating haters. Your time will come when your team faces the dictator.

  27. Well who made that dictator?? It was the very players union who was supposed to be vested in the best interest of the players. The same players they are now defending for trying to take out other players. Yep this whole thing is surely a mess. D Smith sold out the players is what happened. No shock looking where he came from though.

    D Smith sold out the retired vets and gave the commish all the power he could ever want and now the players are crying not fair. Beyond pathetic. Useful idiots is all these players are when they go play dressup and pretend to be negotiating a deal. It was and is a comedy routine. Bree’s running around like he had a clue what the hell was going on during the negotiations. All they saw were dollar signs and got played. Greed is good though if your a FA. LOL

  28. If the players SHOULD be mad at anyone it should be their representatives who signed the CBA last summer giving the Commissioner the power to serve as “judge, jury and executioner”.

  29. They were stupid and got caught. No matter how much evidence there is they will stay suspended. They should shut their mouths and cut their losses.

    And Goodbar is just trying to appeal to the feminine fan. Keep raking in those profits. It’s such a clean wholesome game and we wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.

    Focus on your spearing Goodbar. TBIs are no joke. Figure out a way to protect a player’s head.

    Let’s get past this ridiculousness and get to the season.

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