Throughout the NFL’s investigation of the Saints bounty case, the most serious accusation made against any player was the claim that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told his teammates before the NFC Championship Game that he’d give $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre out. Vilma has long denied that, but in re-affirming Vilma’s yearlong suspension today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made clear that he doesn’t buy Vilma’s denial.
The full statement from the NFL about the suspensions of four Saints players includes portions of a letter that Goodell wrote to Vilma explaining why he is still suspended for the year, and in that letter Goodell said he believes that Vilma did put a bounty on Favre.
“I find, based on all of these facts and the entire record described above, that you did, in fact, pledge money to any teammate who injured or disabled Mr. Favre to an extent that he would not be able to continue playing in the playoff game,” Goodell wrote to Vilma. “I recognize that you and some of your teammates have denied that you made such a pledge or claim not to recall your doing so, but I am persuaded, based on the entirety of the record before me, that you did so. And I find that such a pledge or any similar incentive is conduct detrimental.”
Goodell also told Vilma that the NFL has credible evidence that Vilma put a bounty on former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, although Goodell said the evidence about the Favre bounty alone was enough to merit a one-year suspension.
Although Goodell compromised in one respect by allowing Vilma to collect his pay for spending the first six weeks of this season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Vilma is not expected to accept Goodell’s version of a compromise. Vilma is likely to keep fighting, and to keep insisting that he didn’t put a bounty on Favre.