The latest Jonathan Vilma lawsuit blows the whistle on many things regarding the bounty investigation. It also blows the whistle on the notorious whistleblower.
Though it’s been widely rumored that former Saints defensive assistant Mike Cerullo is the person who resurrected the bounty probe by reaching out to the league office in 2011, Vilma’s civil complaint makes it clear that Vilma believes Cerullo created the present mess.
Vilma also believes that Cerullo is acting out of spite. At paragraph 105 of the complaint, Vilma alleges that the Saints fired Cerullo after he “disappear[ed] from the Club during the 2009 Season and provid[ed] a pretextual excuse that was shown to be inaccurate” and he “disappear[ed] from the Club during the week leading up to the Super Bowl in 2010, again giving a pretextual excuse that was shown to be inaccurate.”
After the Super Bowl win, Cerullo received “a cubic zirconia Super Bowl ring facsimile rather than a genuine Super Bowl ring, for which Cerullo has strenuously and vehemently expressed his resentment.”
At paragraph 106, Vilma alleges that Cerullo “pledged revenge against the Saints,” and particularly against assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
At paragraphs 107 and 108, Vilma alleges that the NFL “relied principally upon Cerullo’s statements” during the bounty investigation, and that the disciplinary decisions were based on the results of “multiple interviews” of Cerullo.
At paragraph 109, Vilma claims that Cerullo “retracted his previous claims” during an April 2012 communication with Goodell.
At paragraph 124, Vilma alleges that Cerullo created the notes regarding the persons who pledged money to the Brett Favre bounty “well after the 2009 NFC Championship Game and in an effort to gain revenge against the Saints for terminating his employment.”
If Vilma’s allegations are true, the bounty case against him and the other players has been seriously undermined.
It’s not the first time a disgruntled former employee has caused problems for the Saints. Former director of security Geoffrey Santini brought to light the Vicodin scandal that ensnared Vitt and coach Sean Payton. Also, it’s believed that a disgruntled former Saints employee provided information to ESPN regarding the fairly recent (but already largely forgotten) claim that G.M. Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches.
And so the broader message to the Saints organization is either that they need to treat their employees better, so that they don’t become disgruntled and share secrets with others, or that they need to do a better job of screening applicants who could eventually tell lies about the organization. Or perhaps both.
For the league, the broader message is that there’s no longer any reason to protect Cerullo. He has been outed in a federal lawsuit. Release his notes and the summaries of all interviews to the players and their lawyers, and let’s see what Cerullo had to say.