NFLPA calls bounty probe “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete”


The hint De Smith dropped during Friday’s PFT Live quickly has become a reality.

The NFLPA has asked the NFL to re-start the bounty investigation, from scratch.  The request came in a letter from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a copy of which PFT has obtained.

The letter calls the investigation “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete.” Smith also points to witnesses who have “clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information they provided to NFL investigators and knowingly misrepresented the facts surrounding this investigation.”  In support of the latter contention, Smith points to comments from Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, comments from Mike Ornstein to PFT, and the 2011 email from Ornstein to the Saints regarding a supposed bounty on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Smith also identifies multiple pieces of what he calls “other extremely specious ‘evidence.'”  Specifically, Smith cites the transcribed notes reflecting apparent bounty commitments in advance of the 2009 NFC title game, which were introduced as evidence without producing the original handwritten notes or identifying the person who created them.  The notes reveal that Vitt offered $5,000 to the “QB Out pool,” something for which he never was accused or suspected.  Those same notes are now being used as one of the key pieces of evidence against Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, and Will Smith.

Smith also calls the use of the subtitled sideline video from the 2009 NFC title game “particularly disturbing,” and that the claim Anthony Hargrove said, “Bobby, give me my money” isn’t accurate.

The letter contends that the persons handling the presentation of the evidence “egregiously failed” Goodell, “because they did not present a full and complete account of the entirety of the testimony and information they received.”

“When journalists and fans publicly question the process it reflects poorly upon the stewards of the game,” Smith writes.  “Our players, management and fans are entitled to a process that adheres to a standard beyond your interpretations of the bare minimum requirements of the CBA; they are entitled to believe in the fairness of both the process and the people entrusted to uphold it.”

Smith also touches on a point he raised during PFT Live.  He says that the league initially painted the players as a “gang” that “targeted specific players for injury.”  Smith contends that the more carefully-worded discipline letters didn’t use terms like “bounty” or “pay to injure.”  (Actually, the letters to the four players do indeed mention the term “bounty” and “bounties,” but never “pay to injure,” which further highlights the extent to which semantics has infected this process.)

“This investigation unfairly painted players with a very broad, disparaging brush and has thrown the integrity of the process under the CBA into question,” Smith concludes.  “As a fellow steward of this game, and wholly apart from the union’s and the players’ legal objections, in light of these retractions and contradictions that have come to your recent attention, I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a ‘pay to injure’ scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings.”

It never hurts to ask, but it’s highly unlikely that the league will rip up the file and start over.  Goodell has articulated his position too strongly to abandon it now.

So look for the NFL to keep circling the wagons — and look for the NFLPA to keep firing arrows.  In the end, someone who wears black not as a fashion statement but as a job requirement will be sorting it all out.

And that’s probably the real purpose of this letter.  Apart from the P.R. benefit of accusing the NFL of conducting a shoddy investigation, the summary of the events will be another piece of evidence that may sway a judge to scrap the suspensions.

38 responses to “NFLPA calls bounty probe “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete”

  1. I can’t wait until this is all over with so these stories stop popping up in my team’s RSS feed.

  2. If I were a judge and this steaming pile came before me I would throw it out as frivolous and tell the Association of Rich Guys and their Billionaire Partners to deal with their own messes.

  3. This has gone on too long, and I do not really care anymore. It is in the hands of the lawyers now, so it will simply be sauteed halftruths piled on top of grilled lies with a side of deception.

  4. It seems like the NFL is reluctant in releasing some of the evidence because they don’t want to reveal their sources. Kind of standing on a razor’s edge with this whole thing.

  5. I would have thought the NFLPA would recommend doubling or even tripling the suspensions.

  6. So the CBA only says Goodell has to do X, but De Smith now asks that he go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the CBA and do Y instead? Why would Goodell show such a courtesy to a man that would under NO circumstances do the same for him?

  7. As a Saints fan I’m kinda torn at this point. I do think we’ve been unfairly dragged through the mud, but at the same time the longer we fight this the more of a distraction is going to be. Making the playoffs after all this would be quite an achievement. It’s like our whole team was put on the cover of Madden.

  8. Not a Saints fan I still think this was a bad investigation. I think the nfl didn’t find what it wanted so it twisted words and statements. If I was Greg Williams I would come out with the truth. Screw the nfl. Catch them in their lies

  9. This coming from the group that signed a CBA that basically made GODdell the unchecked king of NFL? Maybe if DeMaurice Smith wasn’t such an unqualified moron the players would have better protections against the league office in place.

  10. dexterismyhero says:
    Jun 22, 2012 2:13 PM
    Cue the Saints fans again. Their team never did anything wrong. Blah…Blah…Blah…


    Yeah and cue the Saints haters too.

  11. Does anyone other than Saints fans truly believe that the NFL and Goodell have made a mistake or this is a conspiracy??
    If this were in the real judicial system all the evidence would be out by now and the whistle blowers would have the federal protection on their side. This isn’t the real judicial system though and if all the evidence came out, the whistle blowers would be unfairly ostracized or worse.
    Here is evidence for you: the people who they claim are “retracting” their previous statements?? They wouldn’t have said the things before anyway unless the NFL compelled and showed them evidence to the point they could no longer lie. Now that the NFL isn’t releasing the evidence, they are trying to backpedal knowing the NFL won’t publicly show the evidence they have seen that made them tell the truth.
    It’s common sense.

  12. Every day, Smith sounds more like a cross between Don King and Al Sharpton.

    “It’s ludicrous!” “It’s preposterous!” “This is America!”

    The players need to think about electing a better mouthpiece. Smith stunk it up during negotiations, and his constituents have to be having second thoughts.

  13. “Smith also points to witnesses who have “clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information…Vitt… Ornstein … Fujita … Vilma…Smith…Hargrove”

    So Smith’s witnesses include a felon with friends in high places on the Saints, and people already facing large suspensions. Yeah, I’m sure their assistance in a re-opened probe would be forthright and honest.

  14. As a Saint fan, all I want is the absolute truth. I want to see the bounty program and see how bad it really was. I want to know that the people getting punished deserved it and those that didn’t aren’t drug through the mud. The NFL seems intent on keeping any real truth from coming out.

  15. It’s become clear that Goodell’s investigation is a joke. The evidence doesn’t stand up, and now Goodell has gone into CYA mode and is throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

    He has destroyed player’s livelihoods and reputations. Can you imagine how Fujita feels, having to go through life (and his kids) labeled as a player who put bounties on other players?

    If Goodell has once ounce of integrity, he should admit his mistake NOW. If not, he is despicable.

  16. To what extent any of the players were involved, I believe the Coaches are ultimately to blame. They planned, lead, organized and controlled the operation. Maybe it was cash incentives to play at a high level or maybe it was more than that at times. Whatever it was, there were rules broken, and for that someone should pay the price, which the Coaches have paid. Usually what happens is that once you catch the Big Fish, the little fish are left alone. This is not the case here, as a few are being targeted heavily. It is akin to following unlawful orders in the military or law enforcement. If you know it is wrong and you do it anyway, you put yourself at risk or reprisal. They should probably try and a find a mediated solution that everyone can live with. At least Goodell only punished a few of the defensive players and not the whole unit. The punishments are harsh, maybe too harsh, but could have been more widespread and someone has to pay the piper.

  17. Seriously, how much “evidence” could there be? The NFL has created this perception of a mountain of evidence about a “bounty program” aimed at injuring other players. Where is it? How much physical evidence could there be. At most the only thing you would need is a notebook and a pencil to run the thing. They are selling the lie that they are not revealing more evidence to protect their informants and the media and the fans are buying into it. Supposedly they have “real hard evidence” they are withholding and only putting out these swiss cheese facts to protect witnesses according to Peter King. I used to think he was one of the smarter writers but age must be catching up with him. They aren’t producing better evidence because there isn’t any. And having a former federal prosecutor to window dress it and try to lend some credibility to it is pathetic. If they had such cold hard evidence that was indisputable why would they need Mary Jo White at all. They are trying to buy credibility. They are failing.

    And I’m not a Saints fan. I’m a Skins fan and we play the Saints to open the season so it would be much better if all of these suspensions hold up. But when something is wrong it’s just wrong.

  18. Does anyone other than Saints fans truly believe that the NFL and Goodell have made a mistake or this is a conspiracy??
    Uh, those are not the words I would use, but the short answer is yes. IMHO Goodell is completely over hyping and over punishing the Saints because:

    a) He wants to cover his behind with the class action concussion lawsuits

    b) He wants to prevent Congress from getting more involved in NFL oversight

    c) He is ticked and got his feelings hurt because the Saints blew him off when he told them to knock it off

    In addition, he wants to hide his “50,000 pages of evidence” because in addition to “evidence” against the Saints, it probably also shows exculpatory evidence, and it probably also shows that these pay for performance programs have been in effect on numerous teams for more than 50 years, including other teams that Gregg Williams worked for.

  19. Lets take a poll: Listen to both Smith and Pash. Florio asks them both tough questions some that could incriminate both sides. Smith seemed calm, answered each question with a sensible answer with explanations. Pash was calm and had a general message until the questions were specific. He then started to stutter and sidestep questions. His best quote is you have to look at the total picture not each individual part. That sounds to me like someone with a bunch of circumstantial evidence. Totally avoided the question of Hargrove saying give me my money. It almost looks as the roles are reversed. The defendant is calm straight forward and giving evidence. The Complainant is nervous, elusive and covering up evidence.

  20. Yeah and cue the Saints haters too.

    Just because some people agree with the NFL in this case, it doesn’t mean that they hate the Saints.

  21. So Smith’s witnesses include a felon with friends in high places on the Saints, and people already facing large suspensions. Yeah, I’m sure their assistance in a re-opened probe would be forthright and honest.


    The NFL is calling the same people (Ornstein, Vitt, Williams) as witnesses. so what’s your point? their is only 1 unknown source that corroborated the evidence they showed the players. And most people think it’s Cerallo, an ex employee who is disgruntled.

  22. There may or may not have been a bounty system, but I really, truly do not believe that the NFL has made up all of this.

    What I do know is that De Smith has a duty and responsibility to ALL NFL players, not just those who the NFL has suspended. The so called NFLPA should be working with the NFL to make sure that none, and I mean none, of its’ members were intentionally and for money trying to hurt others of its’ members.

    It looks to me that the NFLPA is only interested in fighting the NFL and really doesn’t give a d— about its’ members/players. If the NFLPA actually cared about its’ members/players, it would be working with the NFL to make sure that there are not any bounty systems instead of just fighting on behalf of a few players.

  23. @redstar504 …

    I’ve been arguing all along that, while I support the suspensions of Saints coaches/GM, the league has no case against NO players–except perhaps Vilma if it can be proved he offered a $10,000 bounty on Favre. Illegal hits should have been flagged/fined at the time. If there were no illegal hits, there’s no case against the players. So your diatribe on the other thread about me hating the Saints and wanting to see their players punished was pure wackadoodle. Dude, lay off the hot sauce.

  24. The investigators were just trying to collect a bounty that Goodell offered them for verifying his pre-conceived notions.

  25. NFLPA is calling out the NFL for not playing fair? Is this the same NFLPA who told their players to NOT cooperate with the NFL’s investigation?

  26. Goodell will still have made his point and sent a clear message to all teams, even if he lifts all suspensions except for Greg Williams. That might be the only thing to do if he still wants to be commissioner this time next year. He’s not to be trusted ever again if he doesn’t admit his mistakes.

  27. correct me if I am wrong Goodell has offered to De to participate in the investigation. and goodell even asked De to be part of fair punishment and what they believed proper punishment. they have asked players to come tell their side. they have had several months to be part of it. De has told everyone to keep quite dont help in the investigation. they know the deal. they know that they got caught. now its smoke and mirrors to try deflect of the evidence to take the conversation about goodell and his authority.the NFLPA is trying to get their players to support the process because they dont agree with discipline procedures. but the deal is most of the players should be upset that other teams are trying to end your career.

  28. “The NFLPA has asked the NFL to re-start the bounty investigation, from scratch, now that we’ve had a chance to eliminate/hide/destroy most of the evidence.”

    I fixed this sentence.

    Seriously – coaches have told players to flat out lie, union execs have told players to not cooperate, the whole thing has been blown up so big that nobody is going to talk without having legal counsel present, and let’s not forget that the Saints were warned to knock it off and chose to ignore that warning. What makes anybody think that restarting the investigation would reveal any scrap of real truth whatsoever?

    In short, they got off light and should be thankful their Superbowl trophy wasn’t taken (which I heard suggested more than once before the punishments were decided on).

  29. Deb says:

    If there were no illegal hits, there’s no case against the players.

    Absolutely not true! You can target a player’s previous injuries without incurring a flag. You can intend to injure without getting fined.

    Besides, the league wasn’t just punishing the players for actual hits and actual exchange of money. It was the culture, the attitude, the mindset. The rah, rah let’s knock him out of the game, let’s target his injuries, can lead to guys going overboard; just look at McCrary’s hit on Farve in that NFC Championship game.

    They also punished them for the lies and obstruction when the league first investigated.

    Having said that, the player suspensions seem like they should be about half of what they are. But maybe they would be if they hadn’t stone walled the league. Michael Vick learned that the hard way too.

  30. NFLPA calls bounty probe “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete”

    And I think those are attributes applicable to DeMoron Smith.

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