As four current and former New Orleans Saints players continue to proclaim their innocence in the bounty scandal that has them all suspended for varying lengths of time, three of them -- current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, current Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, and Saints defensive lineman Will Smith -- released this statement through the NFLPA website on Monday morning, just before the NFL was to hear their appeals and (hopefully) bring forth the evidence specifically pointing them, or linebacker Jonathan Vilma, to any specific pay-to-injure scenarios.
Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's attorney stopped his client's appeal short because the NFL refused to provide the evidence in question.
''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,'' Vilma said as he was leaving the NFL's offices.
''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.''
The players asked for a recess in the process to review the evidence they were given, and most will reconvene at 1:45 p.m. ET. However, it appears from reports that Vilma and Ginsberg are done for the day. "It's clear the commissioner has withheld thousands of pages of documents from us." Ginsberg told NOLA.com's James Varney.
Here's the statement from the three other players:
We have purportedly been disciplined by the Commissioner for alleged activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the public.
We are in attendance today not because we recognize the Commissioner's jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because we believe the League would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL's case because this is not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due process afforded to us.
As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this League, we are profoundly disappointed with the NFL's conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has publicly said we did, and the Commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and power is fleeting.
Shame on the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell for being more concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor.
-- Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith
We'll have much more on the appeals after the process has completed, but one thing's for sure -- the NFL's case looks thinner and thinner the longer the league takes to release anything but circumstantial evidence.
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