NEW YORK (AP) — The National Football League insists it has evidence galore in the New Orleans Saints bounty program and even made some of it public on Monday.
On a strange day that included a morning adjournment of hearings with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, followed by one of the suspended players, Jonathan Vilma, opting not to return for afternoon sessions, the league showed reporters some of the 20,000 documents it says investigators uncovered.
Among the things the league revealed: a prize of $35,000 for knocking Brett Favre out of the NFC championship game in January 2010. That included $10,000 pledges from Vilma, former Saints defensive lineman Charles Grant and Mike Ornstein, an outsider and convicted felon the NFL says was involved in the bounty program. Assistant coach Joe Vitt pledged the other $5,000.
A video from that game shows Vitt telling defensive players on the sideline that Favre was out with a broken leg following a vicious hit. Defensive end Anthony Hargrove is shown turning to teammate Bobby McCray and saying, “Hey, Bobby, give me the money.”
Hargrove was flagged and subsequently fined $5,000 for a flagrant hit on Favre, who returned to the game.
The league also displayed a computer slide it obtained from the Saints, dating from before a playoff game against Seattle the following season, showing photos of three Seahawks with the words “Now it's time to do our job. Collect bounty $$$!. No apologies. Let's go hunting” printed on it.
The evidence included handwritten notes, documents from the Saints' computer system and witness testimony.
One document showed Vilma offering “two five-stacks,” or $10,000, to knock out Favre in the title game, which the Saints won, leading to their Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis in February 2010. The NFL said several people, including Saints coaches, confirmed Vilma's offer.
What the NFL shared Monday also included former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who ran the bounty program, admitting to investigators he “rolled the dice with player safety and someone could have been maimed.”
Williams has been suspended indefinitely by Goodell, while Saints head coach Sean Payton is gone until after the Super Bowl. Vitt, the interim replacement for Payton, begins a six-game suspension when the regular season starts. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is suspended for eight games once the season begins.
Several other players' names appear in the evidence, including safety Roman Harper and linebacker Scott Shanle. Neither was punished by Goodell because those players were not linked with any intent-to-injure hits.
Photo: Jonathan Vilma