June 18th, 2012
A Grand Canyon-sized gulf exists between the assertions of NFL on the Saints’ alleged bounty program and the NFLPA’s understanding of the events.
The league released 200 pages of evidence supporting its claims of the bounty program. The NFL did not make that document public, but naturally, they gave it to the NFLPA, and they had no problem making the document public—along with added commentary by them.
Deadspin posted this document; the document itself appears to be an exercise in flooding the reader with useless information so they forget the point of why they are reading it in the first place. As Deadspin notes, “95 percent of the ‘evidence’ released has nothing to do with bounty systems,” and the NFLPA would probably tell you that the other five percent isn’t actually evidence, but misinterpreted information.
In what would constitute as actual evidence, the NFL had several PowerPoint presentations that Williams created to motivate his team. They provided slides like this:
This is certainly a solid piece of evidence suggesting there was a bounty—after all, it is about a bounty hunter. This doesn’t stop the NFLPA from offering up an explanation, though.
The NFLPA notes on this slide read:
GW [Greg Williams] used the above slide as a tool to teach by using popular culture to draw players in. It gave players a point of reference that they were familiar with. Unfortunately, “Dog the Bounty Hunter” was a poorly chosen and ironic example to use but life plays havoc on us at times.
Oh, come on!
Life plays havoc on us is the reason Williams chose to use a bounty hunter and a phrase about collecting money in this slide and not to actually reference collecting a bounty? That is difficult to believe.
However, it can be impossible to argue a matter of semantics, and there certainly is nothing concrete to prove that wasn’t the case—a point that lawyer Peter Ginsberg wanted to make clear as he represented Jonathan Vilma (one of four players suspended by the NFL for Bountygate) in his appeal.
Here is Ginsberg as quoted by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, who “obtained a copy of the uncertified rough draft transcript”:
You have taken words that Gregg Williams used, colorful words like cart-offs and wax and [kill the head] and have chosen publicly to distort the meaning of those words notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Williams and others ha told you that those terms in no way relate to illegal hits or any bounty program that you have decided, sir, to misrepresent what those words, in fact, mean.
“Kill the head” is a phrase that pops up often in the NFL’s document. The NFLPA explained this away by saying it is “a tackling technique that resulted in a higher percentage of short yardage stops.”
Now that is certainly believable enough. There are all kinds of colorful and violent phrases tossed out during and before a football game. If you’re a defensive coach and want a catchy name for an effective tackle made up high, why not pick “kill the head?”
Far more damaging than the slides are some emails (more on those in a bit) and this, which was in the Deadspin piece:
It does not appear that the NFLPA presented a case as to what the meaning of this sheet is, and it certainly looks like a tally sheet.
Now, to the matter of the emails. Here is one that would certainly suggest there is some sort of payout going on.
This was to Williams from felon Michael Ornstein. In a memo sent out to NFL teams, the league alleges that Ornstein pledged $10,000 to the QB bounty program in 2009. Ornstein is on record as saying that his talks of bounties were a “joke.”
Taken on their own, any piece of evidence presented is easy enough to break apart. However, as the pile of evidence begins to mount, it is difficult to believe anything other than there was a bounty program.
Still, this is largely turning into a battle in an attempt to court public opinion, and it is all going to be damaging to the league that provides the parties involved with their income.
Both sides would be well-served to handle this in a far more amicable way and behind closed doors, but the stubbornness and ego of all involved have made that impossible.
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