Whether or not New Orleans Saints defenders actively sought to injure their opponents is debatable. However, as time passes, more and more proof of a “pay-for-performance” program continues to mount. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation suit against Commissioner Roger Goodell over the allegations made against him in the original Bounty report, which was released on March 2nd. The report alleges that Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Never mind the fact that Vilma was implicated in bounty scandal that dated back to his days as a Miami Hurricane. Vilma thinks Goodell is out to ruin his rep.
Former Saints Linebacker (recently signed by the Cleveland Browns) Scott Fujita, who was suspended three games for his role in the Bounty scandal, stated that, “Over the years I’ve paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20. But I’ve never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player.” That admission in and of itself is reason for the league to issue punishments. Any payments made to players outside of their respective designated salaries is a violation of rules set up within the salary cap. For Vilma, Fujita – or any Saints player – to claim that they are being unfairly treated is slightly comical when they have admitted to breaking the rules.
Now comes this eye-opening report from Yahoo!Sports’ Mike Silver, who has done an incredible job of covering all the bases of this bounty story.
When documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon visited NFL headquarters three weeks ago to play a much-publicized Gregg Williams audiotape, league security officials were particularly interested in a sequence in which the former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator announced $200 rewards for “whack” hits by cornerback Roman Harper and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar in last January’s playoff victory over the Detroit Lions, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
Pamphilon, who had previously been asked to share the tape by an NFL security official, traveled to league headquarters a day earlier with a copy of the audiotape. He was escorted to the basement of the midtown Manhattan office building and, while sitting at a long conference table, played the tape from start to finish for NFL security chief Jeff Miller and investigator Joe Hummel, who two weeks earlier had submitted his resignation but stayed on through the conclusion of the Saints probe.
Hummel, according to Pamphilon, took notes throughout the meeting and was particularly interested in the section of the speech in which Williams announces payments for various defenders for achievements in the previous week’s playoff victory over the Lions. When Williams tells the group that the “first envelope” will go to “JD” – who, according to Pamphilon and another person who was in the meeting, was Dunbar – the linebacker appears to refuse the money, instead putting it back into the pot for the current week’s game.
“You want it?” Williams asks.
“[Expletive] no,” a voice answers, as others in the room applaud.
“OK, it’s $200 – you got it for a ‘whack,’ ” Williams says. The rest of his words are drowned out by loud cheers.
Williams then singles out Harper by uniform number, saying, “41, one whack, $200.” Others in the room yell, “Give it back,” and Harper, like Dunbar, seems to comply – a common practice among Saints defenders.
***UPDATED WITH A TWITTER RESPONSE FROM JONATHAN VILMA***
The words contained within this audio tape (and the as yet to be seen video tape) serve as explicit proof of the behind the scenes shenanigans the New Orleans Saints perpetrated. The small amount of money involved may cause some to shrug off what occurred, but the fact remains that the Saints were making a mockery of the rules.
While Saints players and their fans continue to request proof of the allegations made against their team, the circumstantial evidence continues to pile up. The Saints and their fans can not continue to spew out the narrative of being treated unfairly when players have admitted to paying out illicit funds AND there is audio-proof of the payments being made.