It seems that with each week there is a new twist to Bountygate. Last week, it was Jonathon Vilma filing a defamation suit against Roger Goodell. This week’s twist comes from discussions that CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman had with a few “angry”, “tired and determined” Saints players.
In his discussions with the players, one believes that the Saints are being “railroaded” and another believes that the franchise has become a “cautionary tale” despite having done nothing wrong.
But the meat of Freeman’s report centers around the discipline letters that the NFL sent to the Saints and the circumstances surrounding the suspensions.
Players say they have seen the discipline letters from the NFL to the Saints’ Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis. They claim those letters don’t simply state the allegations and the imposed punishment. They claim the letters tell the four men, in general terms, that if they stay mostly quiet, the league will let them back into the sport after a certain number of games. (The NFL denied this, but wouldn’t address other claims by Saints players.)
Implied in that, Saints players say, is that if the coaches do talk, their suspensions could go longer. This is why Payton and especially Williams have said almost nothing.
Plausible argument here.
You must admit that it’s odd that the Saints remained quiet about these allegations, while screaming at the top of their lungs about ESPN’s eavesdropping allegations.
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.
Yet another plausible argument. If you’re in Gregg Williams’ shoes, you’d do whatever it took to be able to coach again.
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.
All plausible arguments.
The NFL may be right in all this, but as the weeks go on, they may be forced to actually prove that they’re right. Which they should be willing to do anyway.