ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that in today’s meeting with NFL officials, beleaguered New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was handed an affidavit from his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams which stated that Vilma had offered $10,000 to any player who knocked then Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship game.
According to a source, Williams attests that while money was being paid into a pool for the purpose of having opposing targets knocked out of a game, there was never any intent to injure said targets. The statement also insists that any play that was outside the laws of the game was penalised rather than rewarded and that players who incur the wrath of officials had to pay into the pool as well.
So how are we to take this news? First of all, this indicates clearly that for a start there was indeed a bounty scheme. There is absolutely no denying that now. What is less obvious is whether what was going on was a pay-to-injure practice. While there is the testimony that the intent was that targets were not injured, this sounds awfully naive if true. Think about it – how do you hit an opposing player in such a way that he can no longer take the field? The only reason that a player would not be able to continue to play was if he were hurt on the play. The fact that Williams says there was no true intent to injure doesn’t really add up given that the only way to knock an opposing player out of a game was to injure him.
The other revelation in this is that now we know that the NFL had absolute proof that the bounty scheme existed. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke publicly several months ago and declared that the NFL had evidence regarding this activity, many doubted him with Saints quarterback Drew Brees famously comparing the evidence of a bounty to scheme to the evidence of WMDs in Iraq that prompted the second Gulf War. It appears now that Goodell was telling the truth about having evidence. What may have hindered this was that Williams actively sought to be unhelpful to the NFL in it’s investigation and until recently had not put down his evidence in writing as Schefter explains:
The fact that the affidavit was signed only recently does suggest that there may be more to the NFL’s case than many previously thought. The reason I say this is because to finally get the affidavit signed by Williams the NFL must have had additional leverage in the situation to extract the signed confession from Williams. Such evidence is likely to be made clear as the process continues as there is now a real need for Goodell to justify his decision making.
After the three hour hearing, Vilma and his representative Peter Ginsberg were very happy with how it turned out and called the meeting very productive and truthful. Ginsberg told the waiting media that he expected a decision either late this week or early next week.