Roger Goodell hears bounty case appeals as players accuse NFL over lack of proof
The New Orleans Saints bounty case released another episode of drama on Monday. The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was called in to hear the appeals of four suspended players, who are primarily complaining about the process being unjust and not transparent enough.
Roger Goodell met with the players at the NFL headquarters. The four players included New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (suspended for the 2012 season), defensive end Will Smith (suspended for four games), Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove (suspended for eight games) and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (suspended for three games).
The players are accusing NFL of proceeding on the bounty case without enough evidence. According to these players NFL does not have substantial amount of proof to convict them.
Jonathan Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg were the first ones to leave the hearing. Peter Ginsberg called the hearing “a sham” and said Roger Goodell had failed to provide proof that led him to impose a penalty on Jonathan Vilma.
“Roger Goodell has taken three months to tear down what I built over eight years. It’s tough to swallow. I have been linked to a bounty and it simply is not true,” said Jonathan Vilma. “I don’t know how I can get a fair process when he is the judge, jury and executioner. You’re assuming it will be fair, but it’s not.”
Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita recorded their appeals in the afternoon session. All three of them had their attorneys and lawyers from the NFL Players Association present at the hearing.
“The NFL’s investigation has been highlighted by sensationalized headlines and unsubstantiated leaks to the media. I have yet to see anything that implicates me … not in the last three months and not today,” Scott Fujita was quoted in a press release later. “The NFL has been careless and irresponsible, and at some time will have to provide answers.”
In spite of the claims by all four players NFL has turned over some startling evidence regarding the bounty case. In a news conference after the hearing NFL showed media hand-written notes, files from New Orleans Saints computers and witness testimonies that showed a bounty on quarterback Brett Favre of $35,000 for the NFC Championship game in 2010.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and his assistant Joe Vitt received their suspension verdicts earlier. Sean Payton has been suspended for a season and Joe Vitt for six games.