New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt issued a stern denial regarding former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' claim that Vitt insisted on keeping the team's bounty program in place despite an NFL investigation.
"We knew the scuds were going to come, we knew there would be a leakage of information," Vitt said Thursday at his press conference inside the Saints' practice facility in Metairie, La. "It was like 60 Minutes, the thing ticking, and here it comes -- it's here."
Vitt, Williams and alleged whistleblower and former Saints employee Mike Cerullo, a key NFL witness, were separately debriefed in front of former commissioner Paul Tagliabue during the appeals hearings that ultimately led to bounty suspensions for four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- being overturned.
Vitt denies being asked whether he discouraged Williams from ending the bounty program, but Vitt was made aware of the allegation.
"In my testimony, I was never asked that question," he said. "Whether or not I wanted to keep a bounty program going, I was never asked that question. I was told that accusation was made, and I volunteered at the time in front of commissioner Tagliabue to take a lie detector test that afternoon to deny that allegation. So if anybody is keeping a scorecard here, let's take a look at this.
"I said back in March in my first interview with press and the media, that at no point in time did any of our players cross the white line with the intent of injuring, maiming or ending the career of another player, that never took place."
Vitt was suspended for the first six games for knowingly allowing and coordinating the program. He was named interim head coach because Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season. Williams, who left in January to join the St. Louis Rams and serve as defensive coordinator, was suspended indefinitely in March.
"I've testified before a federal judge with my hand on the bible," Vitt said. "Now what's going to happen now is all participants, all these accusations are going to go to a federal court, and they're going to go to a judge. And from top to bottom, she's going to hear testimony. And the penalty for perjury with her is going to be jail time. So let's stop.
"That's the scorecard right now. Our players have already been cleared by three bodies of work -- Judge Berigan, a three-(judge panel) and commissioner Tagliabue.
"Myself, (head coach) Sean (Payton) and (GM) Mickey (Loomis) didn't have that right. Now, until the day I die -- and I think I'll be able to find six pallbearers -- I'm going to defend the intent of our football players. I'm going to defend the integrity of this organization and the high moral standards to which our owner holds us all to. And that's just the truth. That's just the truth."