Saints interim coach Joe Vitt met with the media on Thursday, facing for the first time publicly the allegation that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the architect of the bounty program, wanted to stop using it — but that he didn’t because Vitt objected.
Vitt denied it strongly and colorfully. Here’s the full text of his response.
“Yesterday I was asked that question and I said specifically I wasn’t going to answer a question yesterday, because we knew that the scuds were going to come,” Vitt said. “We knew that there was going to be a leakage of information and it was like clockwork, like 60 Minutes, the thing ticking. But we knew that this was going to come out and here it comes. It’s here and it’s a shame.
“Number one, in my testimony, I was never asked that question, whether or not I wanted to keep a bounty program going. I was never asked that question. I was told that accusation was made and I volunteered at the time in front of Commissioner Tagliabue to take a lie detector test that afternoon to deny that allegation. So, if anybody’s keeping a scorecard here, let’s take a look at this. I said back in April in my first interview with the press and the media that at no point in time did our players cross the white line with the intent of injuring, maiming or ending the career of another player. That never took place. I testified before a federal judge with my hand on the bible.
“Now what’s going to happen now? All participants in all these accusations are going to go to a federal court and they’re going to go to a judge and from top to bottom she’s going to hear testimony and the penalty for perjury with her is going to be jail time. So let’s stop. That’s the scorecard right now. Our players have already been cleared by three bodies of work; Judge Berrigan, a panel of three judges and Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue. Myself, Sean [Payton] and Mickey [Loomis] did not have that right. Now until the day I die and I think I’ll be able to find six pallbearers, I’m going to defend the intent of our football players. I am going to defend the integrity of this organization and the high moral standards that our owner hold us all to and that’s just the truth. With that I think that I’ve covered all bases.”
Oh, he covered them. Later, he again mentioned the concept of “scuds,” twice.
“[T]onight there’s probably going to be another scud that’s going to be launched over the bow and tomorrow our response will be quick and exactly like we’re doing today,” Vitt said. “These can go back and forth or we can go back to football or we can keep talking about this every day. . . . Like I said, we’ll hunker down and wait for the scud to come in tonight, something to discredit me.”
These “scuds” to which Vitt is referring presumably are calculated leaks of information from the league office, which he apparently believes (accurately or inaccurately) is trying to discredit Vitt based on his testimony from the bounty hearing.
If Vitt is accurate, it means that the league office both leaked the transcripts of testimony from Williams and Vitt to the Associated Press, and that the league office suggested that the AP focus on Williams’ contention that he wanted to quit the bounty program, but that Vitt said no.
Regardless of how the AP got the transcripts and how the AP decided to focus on Williams’ contention regarding Vitt, it remains more than a little ludicrous to think that Williams continued with the bounty program because a man he outranked told him to do it. Williams hardly seems like a guy who does anything other than what he wants to do, especially if he concludes that what he is doing is wrong.
Vitt thinks the next “scud” could come as soon as tonight. Whether it’s as inevitable as the arrival of darkness or as unlikely as a visit from the Great Pumpkin, we’ll be keeping an eye out for it, too.