At the same time he issued his letters to Scott Fujita, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Jonathan Vilma, Commissioner Roger Goodell also issued a memo to all 32 teams. Although there are a number of issues involving this letter such as part of the opening paragraphs contradicting sworn statements in federal court (read about it here), this series is focusing on the evidence of the case.
The 2010 Investigation
Goodell begins his section titled “Summary of Evidence” be recapping the league’s original investigation into bounty accusations. The problem is that there seem to be several versions of what happened back then. The commissioner just happens to pick the version that fits his narrative best. The version used in the memo to all 32 teams names former Vikings defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy as the league’s original whistleblower. Goodell conveniently leaves out that an earlier version of this story included a memo from the league which stated that the then-unnamed Vikings player who made the original claim of a Favre bounty later rescinded his claim. Then there’s the Jimmy Kennedy version. Kennedy has very strongly, very publicly denied any role in the bounty investigation on two separate occasions. The first was when the Hargrove declaration first implied that some thought Kennedy may have been the Vikings player who made the accusation. Kennedy took to his verified Twitter account and vehemently denied any involvement in the situation whatsoever. The day after Goodell’s latest memo was sent out, Kennedy took to Twitter again. He stated in no uncertain terms that not only was he not the original whistleblower, but that he also had never been interviewed by Goodell, league investigator or anyone connected with the NFL regarding bounty accusations. This is just one more example of how questionable everything about the commissioner’s version of events is.
The Williams & Cerullo Declarations
In recent days Goodell has been touting the credibility of Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo. Part 2 of this series focuses almost entirely on the credibility of these two men, so let’s take a look at the actual discrepancies between the two declarations, especially with regard to the alleged Favre bounty.
Cerullo claims to have seen $10,000 cash in Vilma’s hands, heard him offer it as a bounty on Kurt Warner, collected it himself and gave it to Williams, and then heard Vilma reissue the offer before the Vikings game. Williams on the other hand, makes no mention of any offer before the Arizona game and that he never saw $10,000 cash at all. By the way, neither of these versions match Goodell’s story that Vilma held up $10,000 cash at a meeting prior to the Vikings game.
There are also a couple of discrepancies with relation to the handling of funds. One is that Cerullo claims that he was in charge of the cash handling while Williams says that he administered the pool funds. The other issue comes from Cerullo’s declaration alone. Cerullo states that when Vilma made the original alleged offer on Warner he held up “two five stacks” which he understood to mean $10,000. In the very next sentence he says he personally collected the money from the table at the front of the room. If he collected the funds himself, why would he just understand how much money Vilma was holding up. Wouldn’t he know how much cash there was?
Cerullo’s declaration also conflicts with Hargrove’s declaration. Cerullo claims to have been present for a meeting where Assistant Coach Joe Vitt allegedly instructed Hargrove to lie to league investigators about any bounty activity and Hargrove responded he could “lie with the best of them.” Hargrove’s declaration however states “Assistant Coach Joe Vitt joined Coach Williams and me in Williams’ office.” The wording makes it rather clear that the only three people in the room were Hargrove, Williams and Vitt. The league has found it much more convenient for them to just ignore the discrepancies and use the parts that fit their version of events.
The 2009 Giants Game
As part of his “evidence” the commissioner states “in a game between the Saints and the New York Giants in 2009, a Saints player earned a reward for a cart-off of Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who left the game with a shoulder injury.” This is referring to Exhibit 5 from the league’s appeals hearings. The problem with this claim is that the evidence used to back it up is significantly flawed. The PowerPoint slide used to support this claim clearly states that Roman Harper was receiving a payout for a cart-off, which Goodell claims to be the Jacobs injury. The problem is that Harper was not involved in the hit that injured Jacobs. Jacobs was taken down by Darren Sharper, not Harper. Harper was not involved in any injury during this game. Why would he be getting paid for a cart-off? Also, while Jacobs did leave for the last eight minutes of the first half, he did not leave the game as the commissioner says.
The 2010 Panthers Game
Goodell has not yet made his evidence on this game public. However, his own words raise questions about the significance of this evidence. In his memorandum, the commissioner states that the Saints defense was “commended” for forcing three cart-offs. Not paid, commended. By reading Goodell’s own words, the defense received praises, not payments. They got a pat on the back, not an envelope in the hand. Commended, not compensated. Furthermore, there are a number of things Goodell leaves out of his comments regarding this game.
The first thing that was omitted from the commissioner’s memorandum was the circumstances surrounding each of the three injuries. Jonathan Stewart’s injury came on a run to the outside in the middle of the first quarter. Despite having two Saints defenders hanging onto him, Stewart was still making forward progress and was only 3 yards from the first down marker. Sharper came in and laid a hit on Stewart head on to stop his forward progress, preventing the first down. Injuries on these types of hits are not that uncommon. Matt Moore was injured on a sack by Sedrick Ellis. If you watch the video of the play, it shows Moore in the shotgun with Tyrell Sutton to his left and Dante Rosario to his right as blockers. As the play develops, Ellis makes his way through the offensive line and into the backfield where he should have met up with Sutton protecting Moore’s left. Sutton however was out of position on the other side of the formation trying to block Rosario’s defender, giving Ellis a clean shot at Moore. Quarterback injuries are not unheard of when large defensive linemen have a clear path to them, especially when the quarterback doesn’t see it coming as in this case. There was no footage available of the Sutton injury but Goodell states that it was an ankle injury. Claiming that an NFL running back’s ankle injury is due to a pay-to-injure program is like claiming a chef getting burned on a hot pot is the result of a vast conspiracy by a competing restaurant owner. Ankle injuries are common events in the NFL at all positions, especially running back. It’s as simple as one player falling on another’s foot while it’s in an awkward position.
Goodell also fails to mention all of the Saints’ injuries in the same game. Tracy Porter, Stanley Arnoux, Chris Ivory, Jeremy Shockey, Malcolm Jenkins and Sharper were all injured in this game yet the commissioner hasn’t mentioned any of them. Both Shockey and Ivory were lost for the rest of the game. In fact, Shockey had to be transported to a Charlotte-area hospital following his touchdown. He required x-rays to determine if he had any broken ribs resulting from a hit to the back from Carolina safety Charles Godfrey. Goodell has never mentioned one word about this but yet he is claiming a twisted ankle constitutes proof of a pay-to-injure program.
The Mary Jo White Evaluation
Toward the end of the memorandum, Goodell brings up the involvement of former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White and her so-called independent evaluation of the league’s evidence. At the time she stated she had gotten convictions with less. It was never discussed how many of those convictions were eventually overturned. White’s credibility as an “independent evaluator” was highly questionable from the moment it came out that she was on the NFL’s payroll for this evaluation. What little credibility she still had took another significant hit when she claimed Hargrove could be seen saying “Give me my money,” when in fact Hargrove’s face was not even visible in the video at that time. Whatever credibility she had left after all of that was completely destroyed when voice analysis of the tape was released stating that the voice on the tape absolutely was not that of Hargrove. So while the NFL stands behind the “independent evaluation” of a former U.S. prosecutor who is on their payroll, there is a current U.S. judge who is paid only by the taxpayers that seems to disagree with them quite strongly.
To see the Goodell memo, click here.
To see the Cerullo declaration, click here.
To see the Williams declaration, click here.
For the latest developments, see PART 5.
To read the alternate theory of Bountygate, click here.