New bounty ruling seems destined for return to internal appeals panel


Only one thing is clear in the wake of Tuesday’s re-issued bounty suspensions:  It won’t be over until it’s over, and it still won’t be over for a long time.

Based on public statements we’ve received and private communications in which we’ve engaged over the past 15 hours, it’s clear that the four suspended players, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove, will continue to fight.

And the fight likely will take two separate forms.  Most immediately, the players will appeal the suspensions to Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Presumably, the players will be more engaged in the process this time around, given that the players were more engaged in the pre-discipline process, choosing to meet with Goodell after previously refusing to sit down with him.  (Then again, the players couldn’t be any less engaged in the appeal process before Goodell; they refused to speak at the first appeal hearing in June.)

Given that the league has relied so heavily on the sworn statements of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo, they’ll both most likely testify at the appeal hearing.  And that will most likely result in brutally aggressive cross-examinations of both men by lawyers Peter Ginsberg (on behalf of Vilma) and Jeffrey Kessler (on behalf of the other three players).

After Goodell issues a ruling on the appeal of his ruling, the process undoubtedly will land back in federal court, where any still-suspended players will attack the NFL’s process as unfair and not impartial.

While that front in the bounty fight unfolds, it’s highly likely that the players will resort once again to the labor deal between the league and the NFLPA, arguing that the Commissioner once again has strayed from his lane of jurisdiction.  Last time, the internal appeals panel created by the labor deal ruled that the Commissioner has no authority over salary cap violations, drawing the line “between agreeing to injure other players and the agreement to participate in an undisclosed compensation arrangement.”

The league’s statement regarding the re-issued discipline, as we expected, attempts to draw a distinction between offers and payment.  “In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story,” Goodell wrote to the suspended players.  “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”  (Emphasis added.)

Obviously, the re-issued discipline doesn’t remove cash from the equation.  The league apparently thinks focusing on “offers” steers clear of the jurisdiction the Commissioner doesn’t have.  The players surely will disagree.

The ultimate question will be whether the appeals panel disagrees.  If the appeals panel indeed disagrees, this will all get thrown back to Goodell once again.  If that happens, the Commissioner’s only viable option could be to blame the players and the union for not taking responsibility for their actions, close the file, and move on.

23 responses to “New bounty ruling seems destined for return to internal appeals panel

  1. This happens in the same week Goodell let Greg Williams and Sean Payton attended games, are you kidding me ?

    I guess we know that coaches that ran this thing are in the inside with Goodell while the players who were going along with a their coaches are the scapegoats.

    Goodell is a joke, it will only be a matter of time until is arbitrary justice burns your team to. Players, fans… stand up!

    Owners, this guy is a tool… you will still make your billions without him, he is riding a rising tide.

  2. I still don’t see any evidence … well, except for all those written confessions and admissions of guilt. Outside of that there’s nothing.

  3. “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”


    Seriously, what else do you need to know? Anyone still defending these players looks just as bad as they do. The players need to accept their punishment before they make themselves look even worse, if that’s even possible.

  4. Time to ban all involved ban all involved for life, and move the team to LA.

    LA is a better place for the NFL than La. Just common sense.

  5. Vilma is an idiot! The week prior to the 2009 NFC championship game on national television vilma made the same comment he i s being accused for. He needs to keep this appeal going bc its hilarious how much money he is going to lose in lawyer fees! Another smart athlete spending money on his own wishes! This guy is funny next stop for him is new orleans politics he will lie to your face!

  6. Like him or Not….Roger has some JUICY evidence….I bet its an audio recording…from the same guy that recorded Coach Williams speech….Since Vilma wont let it go and take the punishment…they should just release whatever the evidence is….and make Vilma look like more of an azz

  7. LA doesn’t like NFL football. It interferes with their Sunday appointments at the tanning salon.

  8. Funny the crank up the John Deere comment came from an 2009 preseason game. Saints vs. Bengals, when Darren Sharper lit up Laverneous Coles. Coles wasn’t carted-off the field and the “credible” Gregg Williams’ deposition stated that cart-offs were added to the p4p program at a later date.

    But the NFL keeps bringing up Gregg Williams hyperbole. Good thing Goodell wasn’t a military man, he would have been scared to death of some of the hyperbole the military uses.

  9. I think Goodell has been fair. He gave these guys a chance to fess up when they had the chance and, like athletes that get caught doing something illegal, just continued to deny, deny, deny.

    Re-watch the 2010 NFC championship Vikings-Saints game; the Saints were trying to kill Favre (I remember making that remark when watching the game live back). A bunch of late hits that went uncalled could have changed the result. Look at pics of Favre’s ankle afterwards. That’s some proof of intent to injure IMO.

    Trust me, the league has the proof, and the fact of the matter is that you don’t cross Goodell. And if you do he brings down the hammer. I like that! Make these guys accountable as they are not bigger than the game itself!

  10. They need to press the fast forward button on production of the 30 for 30 on this whole thing LOL

  11. @lostsok
    why dont you just say your an idiot.. That state loves their team and they sell out every week.. you obviously have zero common sense

  12. I can understand Vilma and Smith fighting this, however I don’t understand Hargrove and Fujita.

    With Fujita, he said you weren’t part of the program BUT as a team captain and safety rep for the Union – you did nothing to stop it so your conduct is detrimental to the league. 1 game – that has nothing to do with salary cap violations and he isn’t being accused of being part of the program he should just take it and be done, I mean what he said when that tape came out that he should’ve said more?

    With Hargrove, he is a free agent, 2 games more and he is done with his suspension and can hope to get a job again. If he fights this, then he most likely won’t have any chance to get a gig until the suspension is over and how long will that take?

    The other 2, well they wouldn’t go down without a fight but I think that they eventually lose this one because there is a distinction, and wouldn’t it be funny if the arbitor Burbank fines them for the salary cap violations and rules that the suspensions are within Goodell’s jurisdiction?

  13. The “handwritten note” with all of the “bounty evidence” was altered by the NFL AFTER it was written! The PDF has the alterations within the document itself. If you open the PDF you can see the layers created by the NFL to the “handwritten” note.

    Absolutely amazing evidence has been uncovered of this NFL manipulation and creation of “evidence”.

    The NFL is so inept that they left the digital layers on the PDF document they created and you can digitally peel back the layers to see the alteration of the “evidence” the NFL has presented.

    Expect a total bombshell on this to break sometime today.

    This may very well lead to the firing of Roger Goodell.

  14. Aints fans should just let this go. There’s no way the Aints will be in the NOLA superbowl anyway, since they suck.

  15. Spartan, what are you talking about? You seriously think a conclusory statement by the NFL is “evidence” of guilt? What law school did you study at?

    I don’t think anyone disputes that there was a “pay for performance” system under Williams. So of *course* the players would confirm “many of the key facts” because there is a great deal of factual overlap between between “pay for performance” and “pay for injury” systems. The players’ position is clear – that they did NOT cross that line from performance incentives to injury bonuses.

    I’m a Saints fan. I want to know specifically what evidence the Commissioner has that the players crossed the line. As this investigation has unfolded, more and more doubt over the fairness of the league’s process AND the credibility, weight, and accuracy of whatever evidence it has. I want to know why two current players who could be making a difference in what looks like a lost season for the Saints can’t take the field. Show us the damning evidence and the fans will stop complaining!!

  16. If the three-member CBA Appeals Panel believed that Goodell had no jurisdiction whatsoever in this matter, then why would they remand the case back to him for a re-determination on the merits? The Commissioner’s ruling suggests to me that the revised player suspensions did NOT result from any alleged “undisclosed compensation” per se, but rather because of the alleged CONDUCT, which was construed to be “detrimental to the league.” That’s a distinction WITH a difference.

  17. I’m a graphic artist and use Photoshop every day and am particularly versed in layers since it is a huge part of my job.

    That note is extensively forged and edited. I can’t believe the NFL actually thinks the public is this gullible. Props to the guy who discovered this.

    Some of us aren’t so stupid, Roger.

  18. Saints fans are like packer fans cry cry cry the league is out to get us. Move the two teams so they cant complain ever again i wont have any sleep loss

  19. Enough got caught, pay the price and move on. Let this go on and before long every week every decesion by the league office will be going to court. These players are greedy and they are going to ruin a good game that gives players more than a good income. Get over it!!!!!

  20. In light of the NFL’s history of rules violations and punishments, Goodell went WAY overboard on manipulating public outrage with his original accusations on this “bounty thing”. He went WAY overboard with punishments when compared to other rules violations. The bottom line is there’s NO WAY Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma deserved to be suspended for a year. It’s a big deal about nothing, just for the sake of show. “Look at how concerned I am about safety. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain trying to get 18 games and cause more injuries.”

  21. I for one have had it with these players. They will ruin football for everyone by constantly rushing into a liberal court and they know which ones they want to appeal to and the judge they want. That is what sucks. A judge making a ruling on something that should not be in their courts but decided between two parties under contract.

  22. There are two issues that are of most importance:

    First, this challenge is about due process; no man in our great country should be denied due process, period. First, the coaches were summoned to New York without prior knowledge and were told sign am admission of your guilt or else (you’re out of football). Then, the league had either refused or reluctantly turned over only some evidence without given the accused the opportunity to examine, question, and challenge said evidence. If this had happened to you, or your team officials, you’d feel different; but, because most of you or blinded by your loyalty to your individual teams, you’re operating with your heads in the sand…

    Second, this is about the NFL gaining evidence that it’s not harboring an unsafe work environment for its contracted employees; for years the Sabol Media Machine (God Bless him and be with his family) has put out great entertainment with such productions as NFL’s Crunch Course which the League has greatly profited from – now the League wants to be able to say when the Judge comes “No Yo Honor, it wasn’t us – they were doing it to themselves…”

    What is makes this whole situation ludicrous is that you have had current, former players of other teams say on public broadcasts they didn’t see the big deal as the accusations are commonplace practice around the league (i.e. Washington, Chicago, Buffalo) and nothing is being done about it there – if you’re going to implement and enforce rules – they should be applied to all teams and personnel equally – otherwise, throw out the hypocrisy…

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