Suspended Players Claim Process Unfair
On Monday, June 18, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held appeals hearings in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. The four suspended players have complained that the process is unfair and the league hasn't proved anything.
The hearings took place at NFL headquarters. Goodell met with Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is out for the season; Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove, docked for eight games; Saints defensive end Will Smith, who has been suspended for four games; and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, out for three games.
After about a one-hour session in the morning, Vilma left first.
Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said the NFL asked for an adjournment to Monday afternoon, but he and Vilma refused. Ginsberg described the hearing as a "sham" and said Goodell failed to provide evidence on which he based his decision to impose Vilma's penalty.
"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 Vilma, who has filed a lawsuit against the commissioner for defamation. "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."
All four suspended players were on the saints roster when then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, by his own admission, ran a pay-for-pain operation that distributed cash bonuses for big hits on targeted opponents.
The NFL handed over some evidence to the four players and the NFL Players Union on Friday, as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. That information contained some 200 pages of documents, with power-point presentations, emails -- even handwritten note, and a video recording. But the package did not include a ledger that reportedly documents payments of $1,000 for "whacks," as well as $100 fines for mental errors.