Dec 18, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma (51) rests along the sidelines during the game with the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Saints win 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Bountygate Fallout: Vilma walks, Brees Compares Goodell to the Bush Administration

Monday’s hearing on “Bountygate” obviously left a bad taste in some players’ mouths. A really bad taste.

Even tackle Eric Winston of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks of regrets in the collective bargaining process where the NFLPA didn’t push back against giving Goodell “absolute power” over league disciplinary matters.

“It seems like he’s (Goodell) running amok with it (his authority) and deciding to do what he wants and it really doesn’t matter what the evidence says. Unfortunately, we don’t have an alternative option to appeal to,” Winston said.

New Orleans players Scott “Steak” Fujita, Jonathan “Oh” Vilma, Anthony Hargrove and Will “Fresh Prince” Smith all left yesterday’s hearing roughly an hour after it began and the proceedings have since drawn ire from not only Saints players but others as well. The trio minus Vilma returned for the afternoon session.

The three players released a statement questioning if they were even active participants in the hearing.

Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, called the process “a sham” because there has been no specific evidence submitted that implicates his client. Vilma is suing Goodell by name for Defamation of Character, saying his reputation has been irrevocably damaged. Fujita makes the same claim about his own, but as far as I know has not (yet) sued over it.

Fujita said Monday that he “yet to see anything that implicates me in some pay-to-injure scheme; not in the last three months, not in the last three days, not today. And perhaps that’s because there is nothing that could implicate me in some pay-to-injure scheme.”

“You know, throughout this process, it’s become increasingly clear to me that just because someone disagrees with the NFL’s interpretation of an incredibly flawed investigation, it’s assumed that he’s lying, and to me, that’s a shame. That’s a shame,” Fujita said.

“The NFL has been careless and irresponsible, and they’ve made mistakes, and at some point, I think they’ve got to answer some questions about that,” Fujita continued.

Drew Brees, ired over his own contract negotiations having stalled, still came to the defense of his own with a bizarre tweet: “If NFL fans were told there were ‘weapons of mass destruction’ enough times, they’d believe it. But what happens when you don’t find any????”

In politics, the first one to start the Hitler comparisons usually loses. The same can be said of such upstanding citizens as Saddam Hussein and comparing this situation to geopolitics is a very adolescent response. Drew, just stick to the facts next time, or better yet, just keep your trap shut okay? You’re not helping.

In fact, the same evidence presented by the NFL was given to a dozen NFL reporters covering the event as they were brought into a conference room where lawyers and security personnel presented it as it was presented to the players in the hearing. Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt and former Defensive Coordinator were shown testifying that the bounty system did, in fact, exist according to at least one of the reporters present, NFL.com’s Steve Wyche.

His recollections can be found in this video where he explains what he was shown:

www.nfl.com/videos/auto/09000d5d829f028c/NFL-reveals-video-evidence-of-Saints-Bounty-program

They were also shown a Powerpoint presentation that detailed computer records. One of the items was a ledger detailing a bounty program that rewarded players for “big hits.” Wyche also said that players had pledged $35,000 for anyone able to “take out” Brett Favre during the NFC championship game in 2009. Vilma is said to have pledged $10,000 himself.

They also saw a picture of former reality star “Dog the Bounty Hunter” was used when talking about taking out Seahawk RB Marshawn “the Beast” Lynch. Next to the photo were typed comments like “Now it’s time to do our jobs…collect bounty$$$!” and “No apologies! Let’s go hunting!”

There’s also video of Anthony Hargrove telling a teammate to “give me my money” when it was thought Favre was injured in that game. The video I saw was in conjunction with the following article posted on NFL.com here:

www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d829f0155/article/nfl-saints-motivated-by-dog-the-bounty-hunter

If you are on the fence about the existence of the bounty program, I urge you to watch this video (the top link I shared) and see for yourself.

It seems to me that the evidence is crystal clear that this happened. We’ve got testimony from multiple coaches, computer records, and even video and audio DURING that 2009 playoff game against the Vikings as evidence – and there’s even more where that came from.

So far, those players that claim their reputations have been damaged are certainly correct, but it was of their own doing – not Roger Goodell’s. I think they’re just denying it for PR purposes, hoping that most fans won’t look any more deeply into things than sound bytes from players themselves.

I think once all is said and done, the players who are currently espousing lack of evidence, “unfairness,” and trying to fight the consequences of their actions will find that people won’t be taking their “word” for much of anything. The simple fact of the matter is they are lying.

Someone please let me know when the grown-ups arrive.

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Tags: Anthony Hargrove Bountygate Drew Brees Eric Winston Jonathan Vilma Roger Goodell Scott Fujita Will Smith

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