Guess what? Bounty talk is back!
Yup for those that thought last Friday’s three judge appeals panel ruling would end all of this, well you were mistaken. The ruling basically said that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had to review the penalties and clarify his decision because it was unclear that the commissioner followed the proper procedure the first time around when disciplining, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith, linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.
Huh? Feel free and play the “Inception” movie soundtrack because this can get confusing.
Okay, so the panel felt that the Goodell has the authority to discipline players if there was intent to injure. Say a player goes helmet to helmet, steps on a player’s arm like Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, and things that would be seen as conduct detrimental to the game per the collective bargaining agreement. The panel says however that if there was proof that the salary cap was affected, in other words money exchanged, then that must be done by another arbitrator and not Goodell.
Monday the NFL and NFLPA exchanged letters as to how the direction of the bounty proceedings and issue should continue. The players union essentially wants a chance to review the evidence, know all of the witnesses the NFL used in its investigation with a chance to cross examine them, and provide their own evidence and witnesses. The NFL in their letter to the players union continues the same approach from day one. The players are free to present “further information on the issue.” In other words, provide new information that would get them to change their minds base on the information that they already possess.
Tuesday evening the NFL confirmed that Goodell will meet with the four players that were facing suspensions. That meeting likely will take place early next week.
In an ESPN dot com piece, Vilma gave his thoughts to the upcoming sit down. "I'm expecting a fair meeting, unlike the June 18 appeals hearing," Vilma said in a text message to Ed Werder. "We can all benefit from transparency regarding evidence and witnesses instead of using conjecture or hearsay to come to inaccurate conclusions. I look forward to getting this accomplished."
Locally, Saints fans love every minute of this as they can envision Goodell squirming in his chair upset at the backlash and that his decisions are being questioned. Read comments however posted on national websites that are following the story and you’ll see a wide range of comments that are at times very anti-Saints if not racial.
So what does this all mean? It means that we are still back where we started. The NFL feels that through their findings, a bounty system existed and these players played a big enough role to merit the punishments. The players still want to see the evidence and know who the witnesses are that are erroneously accusing them of wrong doing.
Through this whole process its tough not to be on the player’s side on at least one point. If accused of something that could sully your reputation, cost you money, and be labeled as something you’re not then why shouldn’t you be able to defend yourself accordingly? Why should the players not be allowed to review what that evidence is and who the people are that say they know better than your word? Imagine getting accused or anything that causes you some kind of harm. In the workplace, employers must prove and go through a process to justify letting you go pretty much. One has the right to face their accusers in a court of law. Heck in traffic court I have seen people use their cell phones to produce pictures of where they parked to prove they parked lawfully!
So imagine getting a letter or seeing a report on television that says, oh by the way you tried to hurt players and uh you are suspended for such and such amount of time have a good day.
One has to wonder why the NFL has been so air tight about releasing the evidence. Maybe it is perhaps because the time that they did release some evidence to a handful of reporters it blew up in their face.
Remember the audio tape the NFL said was Anthony Hargrove saying “where’s my money?” Only to have Hargrove hold an impromptu press conference in front of NFL headquarters saying that it wasn’t him. The NFL later came out and said amazingly that Hargrove was right! It still didn’t matter he is suspended for eight games. Oh yea by the way he was released by the Packers prior to the season.
How will all this turn out? Many national pundits feel that Goodell will simply levy the same exact punishment as before. I for one feel that would be a huge mistake. At the very least reduce the suspensions even if just by a game. It doesn’t serve the league well if the power the commissioner has is shown to be absolute. That a player can go to federal court, get a favorable ruling, meet to plead your case and it falls on deaf ears.