The appeal hearing in the NFL's bounty scandal may have gone well in comparison to the Roger Clemens trial, but after Jonathan Vilma left the proceedings early, and Scott Fujita reamed the process to a host of reporters, it seemed that Roger Goodell's standings in the court of public opinion were about to take another hit. If the NFL has such compelling evidence against the Saints, people keep asking, why does the NFL not show the Saints what it has -- and why does it not show or tell the public what it has?
Following the hearing, the NFLPA released a statement, which said that the PowerPoint slides used as a basis for discipline were never shown to the Saints' coaches, nor was any explanation ever given. In addition, the NFLPA charged that the NFL failed to provide players and coaches with all sorts of exculpatory and mitigating evidence.
From the statement, entitled "Information from NFLPA regarding NFL's 'evidence'":
After the Commissioner's three year investigation, which the NFL publicly declared consisted of review of "over 18,000 documents," interviews of several witnesses, and involved a former US Attorney hired to opine that the investigation was "thorough and fair," the League provided the Players Union with less than two hundred pages of documents the Friday before Monday's hearing.
The NFL chose not to identify who created the documents, when they were created, the purpose of creating them, where the documents were obtained, or whether the players had even seen these documents. In addition to denying the Players Union's request for a three-day continuance to learn the answers to these questions, the Commissioner nonetheless informed the players that the League will not offer any witness at the hearing who created the documents.
After the hearing, the NFL brought in 12 reporters, including Peter King of SI.com, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports and Bob Glauber of Newsday.com. According to several of those reporters, what the league presented was explosive, compelling, and quite damning.
"First, [a] good chunk of the NFL's evidence came from Saints own computer system," Freeman wrote on Twitter. "[Former Saints defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams was clearly the biggest source for NFL but [there's] no question [the] league has many other sources. Owner [Tom] Benson was cooperative with the league granting investigators access to Saints computer system. Saints kept bounty info on [their] computer system. Williams told investigators he was 'rolling the dice with player safety and someone could have been maimed.' Saints used Dog the Bounty Hunter as motivation."
King first revealed that according to the evidence presented, the bounty set on the head of Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game was actually $35,000, not $10,000 as believed at one time.
"NFL just showed reporters evidence in Saints case, incl[uding] allegation of $35k bounty, not just $10k, to knock Favre out of '09 NFC title game," King tweeted. " NFL also showed evidence on ledger that S Roman Harper once was due $1000 for knocking NYG RB Brandon Jacobs from a game. The $35k bounty on Favre, the league claims, included a $5000 pledge from current interim Saints coach Joe Vitt.
"The NFL's charges are explosive, compelling," King continued. "Twelve reporters just heard the league's evidence. To clarify, the 12 reporters were told they were getting the same presentation the players got earlier in the afternoon."
We'll have much more on this as it becomes clear just what was presented to the reporters, and if it differed at all from what the players were allowed to see during their appeal.