October 9, 2012

Bounty Suspensions Reaffirmed, Evidence Released by Goodell

As expected, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has re-applied the bounty player suspensions to the four current and former Saints accused, and release many pages of the evidence against them.  MLB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith, LB Scott Fujita and DT Anthony Hargrove's suspensions are now back in effect.

Saints starting RDE Will Smith will miss the next four games, a total of five weeks including the bye, having played the first five weeks under a three-judge panel's ruling that vacated Goodell's punishments.

But the panel ruled not on the bounty case itself or the league's investigation, but rather, on Goodell's power as commissioner to enforce the discipline.

Goodell was found to have characterized the bounty scheme as pay-for-performance, essentially a salary cap issue, which Goodell was found to not have the power to suspend players for.  Goodell does however have the power to discipline "conduct detrimental" to the league, the justification he used in a statement reaffirming the suspensions today.

Goodell used the term "detrimental" in the first sentence of the statement.  Later, he wrote, "Here the quality, specificity, and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental are
far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such cases."

"...Conduct detrimental to the game must be addressed and deterred, and that while the process may be subject to collective bargaining with representatives of our players, the Commissioner, whose most important responsibility is protecting the integrity of and public confidence in the game, is in the best position to determine and enforce those standards in the best interests of the game."  This language aligns perfectly with the three judge panel's ruling.

The league did reduce Fujita's suspension from three to one game, and Hargrove's suspension from eight to seven games.

Exhibits released by the NFL included a memo provided by a "defensive coaching staff member" with names and dollar amounts of the players who paid into the bounty pool at one point,
"Torrence - 500
Evans - 500
Vilma - $2000
Grant - 1500
Smith - 1500
Shanle 500
Ornstein - 5,000"
and in the margins, "Fujita to DL   500 - sack   500 - FF"

That evidence was followed up by numerous other emails, computer presentation slides, and handwritten notes.  Included on one slide were pictures of the Seattle Seahawks, a picture of reality television character "Duane "Dog" Chapman (a/k/a/ "Dog the Bounty Hunter") and the text "Now its time to do our job...collect bounty$$$! No apologies! Let's go Hunting!"

Further, the evidence released by the NFL included statements collected from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now suspended indefinitely by the league, "...Vilma, while a defensive captain, contributed seed money to "kitty" at start of each season, including $1,000 at start of each of 2010 and 2011 seasons."  In all, 73 pages of evidence was provided in two documents, found here and here.

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