Story Summary

Saints “bounty-gate” allegations and punishments

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal was an incident in which several defensive players and coaches from the Saints were alleged to have operated a slush fund that paid out bonuses for in-game performance in violation of NFL rules.

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This story has 9 updates

New Orleans Saints Owner Benson celebrates with his wife Gayle and granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc after his team defeated the New York Giants during their NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans“We are all thankful that Sean Payton has been reinstated. We have a lot of work to do and we are in the middle of it right now.

“He is our head coach and we welcome him back.

“We look forward to a great 2013 season and making another run at a World Championship for our fans!”

News
01/22/13

Coach Sean Payton reinstated

In the statement below coach Payton responds to reinstatement.

“I am thankful today Commissioner Goodell has granted me reinstatement. As I stated back in March, “ I, along with Mickey Loomis, take full responsibility for all aspects of our football program.”
I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations.

“Furthermore, I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed.

“Lastly, I feel we have learned from our mistakes and are ready to move forward. I want to thank our owner, Mr. Benson and all of our great fans for the overwhelming support throughout this past year.

“I am excited to be back as Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints!”

- Sean Payton

CaptureThe NFL is reporting that U.S. District Court Judge Helen Berrigan dismissed Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.

According to the report, Judge Berrigan “criticized how Goodell disciplined New Orleans Saints players involved in the team’s bounty program, but said the claims made by Vilma did not support his lawsuit.”

“While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell’s denying the players the identities of and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process,” Berrigan said. “So while the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation claims.”

Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith were all suspended for their roles in the Saints bounty program. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue voided those suspensions, even though he re-affirmed the findings of Goodell’s investigation.

Read the NFL’s full report here.

News with a Twist
12/14/12

Saints fans deserve some answers

There are lots of unanswered question out on Airline Drive.

The Saints’ season is history. 5 wins in December and it feels like old times: no chance at the playoffs.

But obviously, these aren’t old times.  It’s still the Drew Brews era and that means the Saints will always have a chance.  This season is done. The NFL and Sean Payton saw to that. Yeah, head coach Sean Payton too. The very Sean Payton all Saints fans hope returns next season to coach the team, myself included.

The coach is a free agent right now and could end up coaching the Dallas Cowboys.   ESPN is reporting that Tom Benson is considering suing the NFL if Payton were to leave for big D.

It’s amazing how it all came down to this. If you were to listen to Drew Brews this week you’d think the Saints organization did absolutely nothing wrong.

Maybe someone in the local media could ask Brees that simple question: “Did your team do anything wrong?” Another good question from the local media would be “When did the Saints get notified by the league that Payton’s contract wasn’t valid?”

Why hasn’t the local media had a sit down Q-and-A with newly reinstated general manager Mickey Loomis?

This season is history, but Saints fans deserve some answers to some basic questions that remain unanswered.

News with a Twist
12/13/12

Bounty Gate: It’s All About The Money

The sad saga of “BountyGate” has taken its latest, justified, turn as the player suspensions of Smith, Fujita, Hargrove and Vilma have now been vacated by arbitrator and former NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue. This will not restore bonus reputantia 1- good reputations – to the players nor will it undo the horrific damage done to the Saints organization but it does illustrate the plain truth of American professional sports: it’s all about the money, good reputations don’t matter.

If you doubt that then consider whether or not Johnathan Vilma or Will Smith will ever be denied jobs at ESPN or other media outlets because of their suspensions? The NFL Network airwaves are dotted with men like Michael irvin2 who have committed actual crimes. The extramarital exploits of NFL great Tiki Barber are well known4 as his his current – TV star – status. This past August, Notre Dame football commentator and former Irish star Allen Pinkett saiid the Irish needed “a few bad citizens on the team” because criminals3 “ add[s] to the chemistry”.

None of this is a knock on Vilma or Smith who have displayed class and dignity throughout this ordeal. This IS a knock on what most pro sports have devolved into: very expensive, public entertainment venues whose most popular and well paid figures tend to be the most degenerate; yet the various leagues’ highest paid players -the owners & commissioners- want us to believe all players live for 60 second workouts with kids and visits to nursing homes when the only workouts that really matter are the ones that net tens of millions on draft day which purchase homes so large you need a map to find the bathroom.

In the film “Rudy” we see what sports aspirations can do to elevate the human spirit and while I am happy for Vilma & Smith I’ve seen no players dropping their jerseys on the desk of Roger Goodell.

1 http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/reputans#Latin
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Irvin#Legal_troubles
3 http://deadspin.com/5938925/former-fighting-irish-star-and-current-broadcaster-allen-pinkettsays-notre-dame-needs-more-criminals-on-the-team

CaptureNow that the bounty ruling is over, the finger pointing has begun!

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is now saying that he tried to shut down the team’s bounty system, but was overruled by assistant head coach Joe Vitt.

Williams testified that Vitt responded to the suggestion with a profanity laden speech saying Goodell “wasnt going to tell them what to do.”

Our Food for Thought question: Who do you blame for the bounty scandal?

News
12/12/12

Saints QB Drew Brees Talks Tough About Bounties

 

Wednesday, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees lashed out at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league saying they were more concerned about the outcome of the bounty investigation than making sure it was a fair process.

“Right now the league officer and commissioner Goodell have no credibility with us or with the fans,” Brees said during a news conference at Saints headquarters in Metairie.

breescommentsThe star QB also lashed out at former coaching assistant Mike Cerullo and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

“Our coaches and players were lied to by the league office, by the investigators, to where they were getting their information. They made it seem like they had this rock solid case made up of coaches and players when in reality they have the testimony of Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo, two disgruntled employees that were fired here because they didn’t fit the mold of what we were about. And clinically the jury is still out on where these guys are mentally,” Brees said.

Defensive end Will Smith originally received a four game suspension for his alleged role in the bounty program.  But Smith said in testimony in late November before former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue that neither Williams nor Cerullo fingered him.

“When Gregg was interviewed he said he didn’t say that about me, that me in particular, everything they said about me, I didn’t do. He said that in his testimony,” Smith said Wednesday.

Tagiabue’s findings cleared former Saint Scott Fujita.  But former Saint Anthony Hargrove, Vilma, and Smith were still at fault according to Tagiabue.

Vilma said Wednesday that he’s not surprised given he still has a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.

“It didn’t bother me because his law firm is representing Goodell in the defamation suit. It wouldn’t like if he exonrated me and said this all bs, and turn around and move forward with my defamation case. It was one of those deals where he is stuck between a rock and hard place. He knew this was a botched investigaton, but he has to protect his client,” Vilma said.

When asked about the Saints bounty scandal, quarterback Drew Brees & linebacker Jonathan Vilma express their disgust with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – 12/12/12

captureSaints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has decided not to continue pressing one of his two lawsuits against the NFL and their bounty scandal.

Vilma’s attorney contacted federal judge Ginger Berrigan just before a noon deadline today to tell her that Vilma will accept Paul Tagliabue’s decision, which came down yesterday.

Tagligabue essentially said that Vilma and two other Saints defenders were guilty of taking part in an illegal bounty scheme but that their suspensions were too harsh a punishment.

Vilma and the NFL players association say they will accept that decision and not challenge it in court, but that Vilma will still go ahead with another lawsuit, a defamation suit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

This put Vilma in something of an odd position: he is accepting Tagliabue’s finding that he took part in the bounty scheme, yet he is pressing a lawsuit against Goodell for publicly accusing him of taking part in the bounty scheme.

No word yet when the defamation suit may go to trial.

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