NFL Fans – Have we been had?
Have we been took?
According to a few unnamed New Orleans Saints players caught up in the Bounty Scandal, the answer to the above questions is a resounding yes. Speaking on the condition that their identities be kept a secret, CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman got a few Saints players to open up:
One Saints player on the phone was angry.
“Everyone in the bounty case is being railroaded,” he said, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Another sounded tired but determined. “Our franchise has become a cautionary tale,” he said, “and we’ve done nothing wrong.”
For the past several weeks, some Saints players have contacted me, saying those accused in the bounty case, as well as the team itself, have been treated unfairly by the media (including by me). They spoke on the condition their identities were protected, fearing retribution from the NFL (in fact, Saints players said repeatedly that it can’t be overstated just how much people in that locker room right now fear the NFL).
The players went on to list a few points of contention with all the charges levied against them.
So I listened as some as Saints players told their side. What they said was somewhat eye-opening.
Nonetheless, players expressed these concerns:
- They say the banned assistant, Williams, didn’t admit to a pay-to-injure scheme in his statement, that he didn’t actually write the statement (the NFL did), and he agreed to whatever the NFL wanted so he could one day coach again. (W&L – Did the NFL LIE About What Gregg Williams Admitted To?)
- They say the players are being punished more because of Williams’ ugly words caught on tape than any specific actions on the field related to bounties.
- The Saints believe they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time in NFL history. Williams’ vitriol, along with the NFL’s desire to eradicate bounties and protect itself from lawsuits, meant the league was going to make examples of the Saints whether there was real proof or not, the players maintain.
- They claim the NFL is manipulating what little evidence it has. Players point to how the league released a statement saying former Saints lineman Anthony 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 and participated in it.” Later, Hargrove’s actual statement was leaked to the media, and Hargrove himself said the league “grossly mischaracterized” his words. Hargrove maintains he didn’t actually confirm the existence of a bounty program but told the NFL Saints coaches instructed him to deny one existed. These are two different things, Saints players say, are an example of the NFL’s duplicity. (W&L – Anthony Hargrove & His Signed “Declaration of Guilt”)
Clearly, until all evidence working in the League’s favor is released, they will be open to scrutiny by those accused and those who believe the League is simply acting out a vendetta against the Saints. However, there is a HUGE obstacle in the way getting that evidence released. A substantial bulk of the League’s findings was found out through the words of confidential sources. The NFL would like nothing more than to keep the identities of these sources a secret. There have been multiple members of the media who have gone to jail rather than reveal the sources of vital information they have been provided with when faced with court orders. To demand that the NFL identify those who helped obtain their evidence against the Saints would go against laws set up to protect whistleblowers in situations such as this one. I highly doubt that we ever get to know the full scope of the evidence working against the Saints. I also doubt that the League has it in for the Saints as a franchise. They were caught double fisted in the cookie jar and are now paying a steep price for it. The punishments seem harsh, but the actions that the Saints are accused of warranted such a strong response.