Football is Back, Injunctions, and Anticipation of Great Things to Come (AKA: The Freeh Report)

FOOTBALL IS BACK *Well maybe just kinda. But it’s better then pretending to care about regular season baseball.

Truth be told, I am late in posting this because I left for vacation on Tuesday and the scheduled post didn’t happen. Not the end of the world as there is always more that can be said. I scanned around the interwebs to see if anything of real substance has happened since I had originally written this and there wasn’t much to be found. So the additions to this post will be mundane thoughts stemming from practice this week.


I’m not going to go into individual player analysis but I will mention a few names who’ve stood out to me and likely have stood out to you as well. First we’ll look at a unit. One that has been underwhelming for a few years now. The defensive line. Sack/fumble for Will Smith. Akiem Hicks is a god damned monster. Tyrunn Walker. This guy was undrafted? Big Sed broke some ribs. Cam Jordan is getting up the field and looks pretty stout. Junior Galette is downright scary coming off the line and he can probably find a week’s worth of snacks in that killer beard. McBride, Johnson, Miller? Meh. But it’s necessary to have a little meh so you can have some HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT on the rest of the line.

These linebackers we have now are not the Dome Patrol Part Deux but they don’t have to be. And don’t kid yourself…there will never be another Dome Patrol. Chamberlain stood out as a guy who made a few plays against the Pats and maybe we’ll bench the Shanle and roll with the other white guy. I’m not a Shanle hater but it is kind of funny that he has held down a starting job for as long as he has being as lackluster as he typically has been. Either way, I’m okay with it. Lofton has looked other-worldly. Something we just haven’t seen since Vilma in 2009. Honestly, Lofton would be starting even if Vilma was healthy and not wearing a suit every day. We’ve all heard lots of talk about Vilma coming back and playing alongside Lofton on the weak side, but that’s all it is: talk. Any of y’all ever seen Vilma play on the outside? Didn’t think so. Me neither. Not saying he can’t do it but let’s stop pretending like it’s a foregone conclusion that he would just seamlessly be plugged in on the outside. I wish Hawthorne wouldn’t have gotten a boo boo on his hip because I wanted to see if he would’ve cleaned up the performance he had in Canton. He missed a few too many tackles for me but considering it was the first real tackling they’d done I suppose he gets a pass.

*As this is posting late, looks like Hawthorne will be back to show us what he can do tonight against Jacksonville

I like our DB’s. All of them. I look forward to the Pro Bowl this year. Wanna know why? Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins will be there. Queue the “He sucks in pass coverage!!! He can’t catch!!! He doesn’t just look like an old man, he plays like one!1!” crowd. Chill out, people. It’s okay. I promise. You don’t have to hate our safeties to be a Saints fan. Marquis Johnson and Johnny Patrick have been holding it down pretty well in the absence of Robinson and Greer. Color me not concerned. Does Corey White play special teams? Has he picked off Drew in practice yet? He’s going to have to start doing both if he wants to make this team.

I feel sorry for Chase Daniel. I really do. He has to play behind that patchwork offensive line with Courtney Roby as his #1 wide receiver and Michael Higgins as his starting tight end. And there are rumblings of cutting him loose? Come on. Let’s be reasonable. People actually think that it’s a good idea to trade a future pick to the Browns for Colt McCoy? That really is kind of embarrassing and I hope Chase never has to hear that shit. He might be a little chubby and hold on to the ball a little too long but both you and I would be the same way if we’ve been getting paid a couple mill a year to hold a clipboard and slap Drew Brees on the ass as he comes off the field after an impressive touchdown drive. Cut Chunky a break. He’s doing the best he can with what he’s got to work with on the field. I doubt that even Drew Brees would look like Drew Brees playing with the second team. You’ll only be seeing these guys on the field when we’re kicking the ball. Which reminds me…

Morstead’s still a pimp. The job is still Hartley’s.

THE INJUNCTION HEARING

If you’re the kind of person who’s reading this blog in the first place, you are also the kind of person who was following the latest court hearing in Jonathan Vilma v. the Evil Empire. When I was following it in real time via twitter, my hopes were hanging on every tweet that was coming out. In my own personal tally of scoring the tweets the numbers came out to be Jonathan Vilma: 1,326. NFL: 4 Yes. That was my initial assessment. Looking at the aftermath of the hearing through articles read and lawyers questioned, I still think things stack up favorable in the corner of JV51. What I came away from the hearing with is that if the August 30 arbitration panel finds that this will be sent back to Goodell, then the judge is going to insert her authority and grant the injunction and move forward to the Discovery phase of the defamation suit.

The question that was being asked most leading up to the injunction hearing regarding the alleged offer of reduced suspensions was whether or not Vilma was in this to get back on the field this year or to clear his name. When the settlement talks were first leaked I thought he’d be smart to just settle as long as any settlement didn’t require an admission of guilt. But it was made abundantly clear that Vilma had no intention of kissing the ring of Goodell and going away quietly when Ginsberg filed a grievance about the leak of settlement talks. All indications thus far prove that Roger Goodell picked the wrong guy to smear with this bountysham allegation.

BERRIGAN’S REQUESTS

Jude Berrigan has requested that papers be filed by this afternnon (and they already have) proving when the decision was made as to the player suspensions. It appears that she considers the bounty comments made to the press about Vilma and $10,000 to be within the Commissioners authority if the decision on the players’ suspensions had already been made. Here’s a PFT link about it.

“It all centers on what did — or didn’t — happen before March 21, the day that the NFL announced its punishments of the Saints, coach Sean Payton, G.M. Mickey Loomis, assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma claims that public comments made by Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding his alleged offer of $10,000 to whoever knocked Bret Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game on March 21 fall beyond the formal discipline process, and are thus subject to a defamation lawsuit, because Goodell hadn’t fully investigated and resolved the question of Vilma’s responsibility at the time the statements were made. The league claims within the confines of the bounty lawsuits that it was ready to discipline the players at the same time the non-players were disciplined on, March 21, but that the NFLPA specifically asked Goodell to delay the announcement.

NFL Submits Sworn Statement from Goodell on March 21 Issue

Though the judge didn’t explain the reason for her most recent order, it appears that the judge wants to confirm that such a request was actually made, since that would tend to bolster the representation from NFL counsel Gregg Levy at the August 10 hearing in the bounty cases that any statements made on March 21, the date on which the descipline of non-players was announced, about Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma reflected conclusions reached by Goodell as part of the official disciplinary process contemplated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the truth is that Goodell hadn’t started the process of determining player penalties when publicly accusing Vilma and/or other players on March 21 of bounty-related wrongdoing, then Vilma’s argument that those comments can provide the foundation for a separate defamation lawsuit becomes stronger.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy. So the decisions on the suspensions was made back in March but Mr. Goodell was still claiming that no decisions had been reached over a month later in an interview with Rich Eisen? Why? You can’t have it both ways, can you? I guess we’ll soon find out.

Here’s a transcript of an April 24 interview with Rich Eisen

First Eisen question:

Something else that is first and foremost to the New Orleans Saints in many people’s minds about the punishment that you levied down based on the bounty case as well. When do you think the issue with suspending players who were involved with this is going to come to a head or a conclusion?

RG: “II hope to reach these decisions very soon. We have been continuing our work. We have continued to talk to players and other people that can give us a perspective. Once we have got all the information and we feel that we are in a position to be able to issue the fairest and most thorough types of decisions, we will do that but I expect to do that soon because this is a big element to me. This is player on player and what we want to do is make sure that people understand that there needs to be respect for players that play the game and that needs to start with players against players. We made it clear what we expect from the coaches and executives and clubs that these types of activities should not be occurring and that they need to do their part with each other and that starts with respecting each other.

 So let me see if I’ve got this straight. The NFL is telling the court that the decisions had been made on the player suspensions back in March at the same time as the coaches and executives but was telling Rich Eisen over a month later that they had not reached a conclusion as to how to handle the player suspensions? Is that it? What they are saying is, “Yeah, we knew we were going to suspend them right when we started leaking stuff to the media but we didn’t decide what they had done wrong at that point and how much of a suspension was deserved.” Talk about a screw job.


BENSON MEETS WITH THE COMMISSIONER

Anyone wanna venture a guess what that meeting was like? No? OK, I will.

Benson: Good morning, Roger. How’s the family? 

Goodell: They’re good, Tom. Let’s get this thing started and do away with the pleasantries. I fucked up. I overreacted. But I am the Commissioner and that is what y’all pay me to do. You and the rest of the owners know that we are going to be raped in the upcoming concussion lawsuits and I had to make a statement to the world that we care about the safety of our players, our league in general and that we go above and beyond the duties required to look like we have cleaned up the game. It’s about integrity. People will continue supporting us if we look benevolent.

Benson: Bullshit, Roger. There’re no camera around. I’ve almost got the Freeh report all wrapped up and I don’t think you are going to be pleased with what was found. This is the same guy that cannibalized Joe Paterno’s corpse when looking into that Penn State mess about your buddy Jerry Sandusky. Freeh’s investigators interviewed all the witnesses whose testimony you based all of the suspensions on and he has discerned that those who haven’t already retracted their statements were not telling the truth in the first place. How can you not back down from your stance on the suspensions of my coaches and players when it is coming to light that you were bamboozled? Nobody will hold it against you. You’ve already said that the severity of the suspensions you have doled out was due in part to the players and coaches being untruthful with you. They were “untruthful” because you were asking them to prove a negative which isn’t really possible. What are you planning to do to those who lied to you in order to get this train rolling in the first place?

Goodell: Well, Tom. Nothing. I am the end all, be all. I am omnipresent. I have already swayed public perception nationwide to the point that your club will never be trusted by fans of the game and when it comes down to it, that equates to higher ratings. Your team being vehemently hated by the rest of the country will inevitably force them to tune in when the Saints are playing, if for no other reason than to hate them while they are playing.

Benson: You know what, Roger. Money does not equate to integrity and these suspensions you have levied to uphold the integrity of the game have destroyed the integrity of your office. We’ll see what the public thinks of the Freeh report.

ARE WE EVER GOING TO SEE THE FREEH REPORT?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The Saints Start Summer Vacation

FOOTBALL

Greg Romeus is out

Chase Daniel has a thumb.

The Saints are still awesome whenever Drew signs.

And that’s it…for actual football related Saints news. Awesome, right?

EVERYTHING ELSE

Moving on to bounties, suspensions, scandals, lawyers, commissioners, unions and all kinds of shit that can’t be avoided when it comes to the New Orleans Saints and the state of the team this offseason.

First things first. Personally, I don’t care about the coaches’ or the payers’ suspensions anymore. I’m over it. I have accepted them as definite and did so quite some time ago. The Saints are still a dangerous team. Possibly more dangerous than they were last year. According to media reports from mini camp, they are definitely more focused than ever.

So, remember when the player suspensions were handed out? And the statement from the NFL outlining each player’s offenses? Let’s take a look at it:

Under Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement and the standard NFL player contract, a player is subject to discipline by the commissioner for conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. The discipline imposed today for such detrimental conduct is as follows:


-Scott Fujita (now of the Cleveland Browns) is suspended for the first three games of the 2012 regular season. The record established that Fujita, a linebacker, pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL playoffs when he played for the Saints. The pool to which he pledged paid large cash rewards for “cart-offs” and :knockouts,” plays during which an opposing player was injured.


-Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) is suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. Hargrove actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints. Hargrove submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about it and participated in it. The evidence showed that Hargrove told at least one player on another team that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was a target of a large bounty during the NFC Championship Game in January of 2010. Hargrove also actively obstructed the league’s investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.


-Will Smith of the Saints is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2012 regular season. Smith, a defensive end, assisted Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in establishing and funding the program during a period in which he was a captain and leader of the defensive unit. Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Smith pledged significant sums to the program pool for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of opposing players.


-Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is suspended without pay for the 2012 NFL season, effective immediately per league policy for season-long suspensions. The investigation concluded that while a captain of the defensive unit, Vilma assisted Coach Williams in establishing and funding the program. Multiple independent sources also confirned that Vilma offered a specific bounty — $10,000 in cash — to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game the following week (played on January 24, 2010). Vilma is eligible to be reinstated after the Super Bowl in 2013.


The evidence conclusively demonstrated that from 2009-2011 Saints players of their own accord pledged significant amounts of their own money towards bounties, that players accepted payments for “cart-offs” and “knockouts” of injured opposing players, and that the payout amounts doubled and tripled in playoff games.


So, let’s look at the record of what was presented yesterday. If you haven’t seen the evidence presented or the annotated explanation by the union, you can look at it here. It will hurt your neck. You’ve been warned.

In the above statement I underlined certain points that seem to have been the basis for suspensions that were not shown in the evidence presented to the players yesterday. Go back and look at the games, the records presented (which havven’t been authenticated and were “transcribed.” I mean, does no one at the NFL offices know how to use a scanner?) and ask yourself if these reasons stated as to why the players were suspended were shown in the supporting evidence of their suspensions. I saw lots of stuff that had nothing whatsoever to do with any payments for anything and about 5 pages that could be considered relevant to the suspensions (if the transcriptions are accurate and the documents transcribed authenticated). It is obvious to me why the suspended players wanted coaches, teammates, and team personnel available at the appeal to testify as to the authenticity of some evidence, give context to some, and provide exculpatory evidence as well. The majority of the NFL’s statement was not supported by the evidence presented. Roger Goodell was quoted as saying that the evidence presented yesterday was all they had on the four suspended players. Moron.

One thing is clear: The NFL thinks they can do no wrong and that they have these players by the balls. In a sense they are right. These suspensions are going to be upheld, but that isn’t going to change the perception that people have of the commissioner and this investigation in its entirety.

In the transcription of the pledges of the Vikings game (where’s the ledger for the Arizona game?) it shows Vitt contributing $5,000. How was Vitt not accused of doing this and not suspended longer than 6 games if this is true? Vitt’s lawyer says that he was never charged with contributing to this pool and doesn’t understand why it would come out now that he did. If the NFL had proof that Joe Vitt had indeed contributed any amount of money towards putting Brett Favre on a stretcher, don’t you think they would have done something a little more about it?

This too is AWESOME

AWESOME

Read PFT’s transcript of the morning session from yesterday’s appeals? Do it. It will make you feel better. Two great and relevant quotes from the article:

“We have, in fact, engaged in a thorough investigation.  It has been [stymied] in part, sir, because you haven’t issued gag orders to people with evidence, former coaches, people with [the] New Orleans Saints, you had made threats to keep them from talking, you have refused to have them even participate in today’s proceedings, but nonetheless, Commissioner Goodell, we have talked to dozens of people, literally dozens of people regarding your allegations.  We have spend months gathering information and we have compared that information to your descriptions, your public descriptions. . . .  But in preparing with what you have accused Mr. Vilma with the information that we have gathered, we have found the following, Commissioner Goodell.”


“You have taken words that Gregg Williams used, colorful words like cart-offs and wax and [kill the head] and have chosen publicly to distort the meaning of those words notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Williams and others ha told you that those terms in no way relate to illegal hits or any bounty program that you have decided, sir, to misrepresent what those words, in fact, mean,” Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg also cites “substantial evidence” that Williams and former Saints assistant (and suspected whistleblower) Mike Cerullo “retracted directly and affirmatively and without equivocation any claims they have previously made about a bounty program,” explaining that the league has not disclosed those retractions.


Holy shit! Right? If these accusations are true, Roger Goodell better hope that none of this ever gets in front of an actual judge because, in my honest opinion, putting him into a situation where someone has authority OVER HIM could prove to be catastrophic for him as the commissioner of the NFL. Sure, the CBA grants him unlimited power and authority in investigations and gives him the right to punish as he sees fit, but it doesn’t give him the right to misconstrue the facts of his investigations to publicly damage the reputations of all involved so that no one will even question his investigations and their merits in the first place.



Adam Schefter was on Mike and Mike this morning saying that it’s obvious that there was a pay-for-performance program, but not necessarily a pay-to-injure program. And he’s right. Something doesn’t add up. This thing has stunk since the get go and with every day that passes and more “evidence” gets released, it stinks even more.

LETTING GO


As I stated earlier, I have accepted the punishments handed out for the Saints. I really don’t think it will be all that big of a deal. I have let go of the anger I felt when Sean Payton was suspended for they year and have embraced the role we have been given. It is obvious to me that the 2012 New Orleans Saints are going to have to fight tooth and nail for every single yard they gain both on the field and in the press and that the hard work and determined effort they put in will pay off in the Dome come February.

Who Dat, bitches!



PERSPECTIVE

DREW BREES

“Me. Hook it up.”

Heard the interview on WWL with Drew Brees talking about his frustration with the Saints and the contract negotiations? Listen to it here. Really is a little depressing. Notably, Drew said:

“What’s frustrating on my end is the lack of communication. I know that we’ve reached out on quite a few occasions, and at times I know I’ve been frustrated by the lack of response.”


I don’t think the negotiation should have been this difficult.”

I don’t know what to think at this point. The longer this drags on, the more I am inclined to think that the Saints should become a little more flexible in their stance. We’ve got like 17 linebackers under contract. Will Herring being one of them. He may have hit lots of home runs in the charity softball game this week, but that’s more than he’s done while wearing a Saints uniform. There is dead wright on the roster that can be cleaned up in the future to make extra cap room for Drew’s future numbers. I am of the belief that Drew’s cap number for this season will be less than his $16.6M cap number playing under the franchise tag.

All in all, if what Drew said on the radio the other night is true, stop playing this game of chicken and start talking again. I don’t care who is right or who is screwing up the negotiations. Just get the god damn deal done. Period.

JONATHAN VILMA LAWSUIT

Coming to a courtroom near you: Vilma vs. Goodell

Maybe the lawsuit filed by Vilma against Roger Goodell violates the CBA and maybe it doesn’t. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Article 43 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states:

“Any dispute (hereinafter referred to as a ‘grievance’) arising after the execution of this Agreement  and involving the interpretation of, application of, or compliance with, any provision of this Agreement, the NFL Player Contract, the Practice Squad Player Contract, or any applicable provision of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws or NFL Rules pertaining to the terms and conditions of employment of NFL players, will be resolved exclusively in accordance with the procedure set forth in this Article, except when another method of dispute resolution is set forth elsewhere in this Agreement.”

If Vilma was merely suing Goodell for suspending him, this clause would seem to cover Goodell’s ass and keep this out of the courtroom, but that’s not Vilma’s claim. Vilma is suing Goodell personally for defamation of character, alleging that Goodell went out of his way to lie, misrepresent facts, and intentionally tarnish his reputation with the intention of swaying public perception into the league’s corner as it concerns the allegations against Vilma and the Saints. If you’re a Saints fan and you’ve paid any attention to the sentiments of fans throughout the league and the media covering this shit storm, you’ve noticed that they have all been eating the cheese that has been spoon-fed to them by Goodell and the league at large. Even local reporters covering the Saints, namely Jeff Duncan, have started referring to the Saints fans (who have been vocal about calling the NFL and Goodell on their shenanigans) as delusional, tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. (It’s one thing to cover the Saints with an unbiased perspective and another to demean the readers who butter your bread…but this is a rant for another place and time.)

In my opinion, this move by Vilma and his attorney can’t hurt matters. How can it get any worse for Vilma? He’s already been shut down for the year, is going to lose out on millions of dollars, has had his name dragged through the mud, and will forever be the face of this whole scandal. So what’s he got to lose?

ROGER GOODELL 

“Why wouldn’t you trust me?”

This was the NFL’s official response yesterday to Vilma’s lawsuit:

“We have not yet reviewed the filing. However, our commitment to player safety and the integrity of the game is our main consideration. We recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that need to be made.”

Stop with the payer safety schtick already. You really aren’t fooling anybody. When the player suspensions were issued, NFLPA President Dominque Foxworth had this to say in regards to player safety and the notion that it’s the league leading the charge for player safety:

“Over the years, it has been the players who’ve fought the league to make changes to the prevailing attitudes about health and safety in football. We led the change in the way concussions are addressed; successfully opposed 18-game seasons; demanded a change in the NFL’s leadership on brain trauma research and prevention; created new benefits for cognitive injury; shortened and limited contact in practices; created a better injury protection benefit and a $100 million health and safety research fund. We continue to fight the NFL in 500 workers compensation cases.”


Just stop it, NFL. Stop pretending like you could give two squirts of piss about anything more than the dollars you are making hand over fist. If you were so benevolent and cared about player safety, you wouldn’t have been fighting against the benefits players were seeking throughout the negotiations of the last CBA. You wouldn’t still be lobbying for an 18-game season. And most of all, you would have listened when current and former players cried out saying that bounty programs are as commonplace in the NFL as PEDs were in baseball during the steroid era, and not just scapegoated the Saints.

FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

That’s what I’ve got.

Faith in the players and coaches that are left to fight.

Hope for the 2012 Saints season.

And nothing but L-O-V-E for my city, its team and its fans.

LETTING GO ISN’T EASY

Since early March we’ve all known that player suspensions were coming for those involved in the Saints pay-for-performance program. Reported initially that 22-27 players were involved in the program and that suspensions would be sweeping and severe had us all bracing for the cataclysmic demise of the Saints defense in 2012. Could it have been worse? Of course. Does that make all of this any less likely to be overblown, trumped up bullshit? Absolutely not.

After the NFC Championship Game, the Giants admitted to targeting Kyle Williams because he had sustained multiple concussions. Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams didn’t beat around the bush when talking about it. He was quoted saying:


“The thing is, we knew he had four concussions so that was our biggest thing…to take him out of the game.”


Considering that this was before the NFL released any statement to the public concerning the Saints and their pay-for-performance program, I’m sure that when league spokesman Greg Aiello was question about the Giants statements and intentions, he didn’t think twice before making this statement:

“Players are held accountable for their actions on the field. There were no illegal hits to the head or neck area to Kyle Williams on Sunday. There was no conduct by the Giants that would suggest an effort to injure Kyle Williams in any way.”


So that’s that, right? There was no evidence of an intent to injure on the field of play during the actual game. No harm, no foul. Whatever happened or was said in the locker room before or after the game means absolutely nothing and is no reason to look any deeper into the matter.

Unless it’s the Saints we’re talking about.

I am absolutely not one of the tin-foil hat wearing members of the Saints fan base who believes that there is some underhanded scheme to keep the Saints out of the Superbowl in New Orleans this year, but there is no denying the hypocrisy in the league’s handing of this matter. Anyone who has paid even the least bit of attention to the coverage of this mess has heard from former and current players that locker room pools are commonplace. No investigations, suspensions, fines, and/or character assassination of other players, teams and organizations? Well, ok then. Fine, upstanding league you’re running there, Roger.

VILMA GETS FUCKED

Let’s be real here for a minute. This season-long suspension is crap. Rape, murder, racketeering, sexual harassment, face stomping, cheap shotting, (the list goes on and on) all warrant less of a suspension than talking shit in the locker room? And that’s what we are talking about here: words. Things said in the locker room to motivate teammates and induce a heightened sense of purpose before taking the field in monumentally huge games.

Players get fined and suspended week in and week out during the season for personal fouls and on-field indiscretions. Taking that into consideration, any “bounty” related hits that were outside of the scope of the game should have already been assessed a fine and/or suspension, correct? Seeing as this never happened to Jonathan Vilma, he is being punished for shit talking in the locker room and being a team captain. Here’s Vilma:

“I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the NFL’s decision to suspend me for the 2012 season. Commissioner Goodell has refused to share any of the supposed evidence he claims supports this unprecedented punishment. The reason is clear: I never paid, or intended to pay, $10,000, or any amount of money to any playing for knocking out Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, or any other player out of the 2009 divisional playoff game, the 2010 NFC Championship Game, or any other game.


“I never set out to intentionally hurt any player and never enticed any teammate to intentionally hurt another player. I also never put any money into a bounty pool or helped to create a bounty pool intended to pay out money for injuring other players. I have always conducted myself in a professional and proud manner. I intend to fight this injustice, to defend my reputation, to stand up for my team and my profession, and to send a clear message to the commissioner that the process has failed, to the detriment of me, my teammates, the New Orleans Saints and the game.”


Will Smith also says the commissioner is a lying sack of shit.


Right when this whole story broke in early March, Adam Schefter reported that the likeliest of Saints players to be suspended for their role in the pay-for-performance program were Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith because of their roles as defensive captains. Looks like he was right.

NOW WHAT?

So here come the appeals. Appeals which will go absolutely nowhere and mean absolutely nothing. How the NFLPA allowed it to be collectively bargained that all appeals for off-field punishments are heard solely by the commissioner is beyond my understanding. The only resolution that could possibly come from this travesty is going to be through the courts and there is speculation that there isn’t much of a remedy for the suspended players using that avenue either. The NFLPA seems to think they’re going to have their day in court according to Schefter who quoted them saying,

“Get ready for a massive multiple legal battle over this on several fronts.”


I hope so. This is the livelihood of these guys and they definitely should not go gently into that good night. I’m not holding my breath for the four suspended players to be vindicated in this matter, but I do hope it drags out like the Starcaps case did. The Saints have a window for winning and it is still open. Smith and Vilma’s suspensions do not close that window. Hell, the Saints went 5-0 with Vilma on the sidelines last year. Spagnuolo is installing a new defense, so Vilma’s understanding of Gregg Williams’ ridiculous schemes no longer plays a role in his being the “quarteback of the defense.” Still, I hope they stick it to that ginger bitch and wipe that shit eating grin off his holier than thou face before he has to hand over the Lombardi Trophy to the formerly suspended members of this team and organization in the Dome come February.
Oh yeah, Anthony Hargrove, you statement-signing-cheese-eating-ass-covering-motherfucker, go call your sponsor. Have him explain to you what “except when to do so would injure them or others” means.


Offseason Blues

Well, there’s no denying that the Saints have made this an off season to remember. Drew Brees’ contract – or lack thereof. The NFL “releasing” the information about the bounty scandal right at the start of Free Agency. The suspensions of Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt. Signing Marques Colston to a bargain contract. Carl Nicks? Who’s that? Hello, Ben Grubbs. Broderick Bunkley’s neck is here to give Roman Harper’s a run for its money. Lofton, Hawthorne, Chamberlain…we got this. Then the Bill Parcells drama. Big Tuna in the Big Easy!!! Squeeeeee!!!!! The appeals and the suspensions being upheld. “We didn’t need the distraction of Parcells anyway.” And so it continues…

And here we are, a couple weeks out from the draft and I couldn’t be more ambivalent about the upcoming season. Half of me buys into the “it’s us against the world” mentality that led the Patriots to their undefeated, yet ultimately disappointing, season that followed the Spygate fiasco. The other half of me wants to go outside, look up, and make sure the sky is still there. So that’s how I feel and I’m certain it’s not just me. In the face of all the destruction facing this franchise throughout this off season, moves have been made that have been the  fantasies of many a Saints fan’s wet dreams since the Dome Patrol Era. What we need now is a sense of normalcy.

Drew Brees. This guy has been priority #1 since the loss to the 49ers but still remains unsigned. I have faith that this deal will get done before the situation reaches a critical mass. There is no reason to believe that Loomis, a man who has stated that he will be out of a job if he fails to sign Brees, cannot make this happen. Look at his record. Loomis hasn’t let a single player get away that we wanted to keep, much less someone of Drew Brees’ caliber. That’s good enough for me. If that’s not good enough for you, cool. Keep on keeping on with the “Drew Brees is greedy and needs to shut up and eat a Jimmy John’s!” and “Loomis is a moron. He should pay Brees whatever he wants!” nonsense if it makes you sleep better at night.

Head coach. I don’t care. I really don’t. Sure, it would have been nice to have Bill Parcells come in here for a year to win a Superbowl with his padawan’s team, but such is life. Not happening. We’ll be fine. Take a look at what we’ve got. Carmichael and Spagnuolo will do their job. Our team was showing up to organized workouts during the lockout last year. So let Joe Vitt be an extension of Payton through the preseason followed by 6 weeks on the beach before he takes the reins back from whoever handles press conferences and throws red flags in his absence.

Get those two things settled and we can tell ESPN to shove that SAINTS banner on their ticker where it belongs. Jeff Duncan will be out of garbage to spew and won’t be able to retweet Peter King or Mike Florio tweeting a link to some drivel he wrote bashing the Saints because he will return to his usual state of mediocrity and irrelevance.