New York, NY (Sports Network) - On the same day a lawyer for Saints linebacker
Jonathan Vilma called the bounty appeal hearing for his client and three other
players a sham, the NFL presented reporters with previously unseen evidence it
has collected in the case.
Among the revelations Monday were details of the alleged bounty program kept
on a computer system provided by Saints owner Tom Benson, as well as a $35,000
bounty against then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the NFC Championship
Game in 2010, the same year the Saints won the Super Bowl.
The NFL showed the evidence to reporters from several media outlets, including
CBSSports.com and Sports Illustrated.
According to CBS, one slide from the Saints computer system read: "Now it's
time to do our job, collect bounty money, no apologies, let's go hunting." It
was accompanied by a photo of Duane Chapman, known better as the star of the
reality TV show "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
The NFL revealed that much of its evidence in the bounty investigation came
from Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg
Williams, according to the CBS account, told investigators at one point that
he was "rolling the dice with player safety and someone could have been
Vitt, who is currently handling the day-to-day coaching duties while Sean
Payton serves his one-game suspension, will serve his own six-game ban at the
start of the regular season. Williams, hired as defensive coordinator of the
St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely.
Earlier, Vilma left the bounty appeal hearing with NFL commissioner Roger
Goodell and didn't return for an afternoon session, saying he was discouraged
by the process that will likely keep him suspended for the entire 2012 season.
"It's unfortunate that this process has been the way it is," Vilma said Monday
after leaving the NFL's offices. "I don't know how you get a fair process when
you have a judge, jury and executioner (Goodell). He's made a ruling and is
going to stick by that ruling. Whatever happens from there happens. It's hard
to go into a process or situation assuming that it's fair."
Vilma was just one of four players suspended, but was hit hardest by Goodell.
As a captain of the Saints' defensive unit, Vilma is said to have helped
establish and fund the bounty program. He was said to have offered $10,000 in
cash to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of a 2009
divisional playoff game.
"It's tough to swallow, knowing that from here on out, I'll be forever linked
to a bountygate that's simply not true," said Vilma, who filed a defamation
suit against Goodell last month.
Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's lawyer, called Monday's hearing a "sham" and said
Goodell has withheld evidence from the "supposed investigation."
"If [Goodell] chooses to ignore the evidence, then we just have to proceed
as best we can to reclaim Jonathan's reputation," the attorney said.
In addition to Vilma, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay,
was suspended eight games, defensive end Will Smith was hit with a four-game
ban and linebacker Scott Fujita, now playing for Cleveland, will sit for the
first three games of the 2012 campaign.
Prior to Monday's hearing, the NFL Players Association released a statement
from the other three players that virtually echoed Vilma's public sentiments.
"We have purportedly been disciplined by the commissioner for alleged
activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the
public," the statement said.
"We are in attendance today not because we recognize the commissioner's
jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because
we believe the league would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to
attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL's case because this is
not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due
process afforded to us.
"As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this league, we are profoundly
disappointed with the NFL's conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has
publicly said we did, and the commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and
disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and
power is fleeting.
"Shame on the National Football League and commissioner Goodell for being more
concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men
who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor."
A pair of grievances filed by the NFLPA on behalf of the players were denied
by arbitrators in recent weeks.
The Sports Network