Category Archives: New Orleans Saints

Cribbs’ Twitter post on Fujita is an eyebrow raiser

Josh Cribbs tweets a lot of stuff.

Occasionally there is the interesting nugget in there about the Cleveland Browns or the NFL.

Monday was one of those days. As Scott Fujita released his first statement denying ever pledging or contributing to a bounty pool in New Orleans, and as Fujita and the other three suspended players stated they would appeal, Cribbs offered this on Fujita via Twitter:

Hey @nfl, I wouldn’t force @scottfujita99 to take the gloves off if I were you…”Sources” tell me he knows a little too much!!!

Cribbs didn’t detail anything else, but if anyone has information that might be interesting it would be Fujita. He’s plugged in to the league, and as a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee he has access to a lot of information that the public does not see.

From the get-go, it was shocking to think that Fujita played for a team that had bounties. But when the league announced its suspensions, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and coach Sean Payton did not deny the bounty pool (which disgustingly rewarded guys for injuring opposing players). The Williams tape from the NFC Championship Game in January confirmed what had been reported.

But it was tough to see Fujita being involved. He has never been known as a dirty player, and he also was part of the effort to relax rules that would, in theory, make the game safer.

Then the league said it had evidence Fujita pledged “significant amounts” to the bounty pool in the playoffs after the 2009 season. And it said Fujita declined to speak with the league. And it trotted out a former defense attorney called in as an independent expert to examine the evidence. The league’s certainty bolstered all claims.

Now comes the pushback from players who say they have never been given evidence of their misdeeds. And with it comes some tiny chipping away at the foundation of certainty the league built. Cribbs’ tweet followed.

It’s impossible to say what it all means, but the league’s mountain of evidence certainly seems persuasive — as do the actions and words of Williams and the actions and words of the Saints.

The vehemence of the pushback, though, is not insignificant.

Where this goes could be among the more fascinating stories of this or any other NFL year.

Fujita makes first statement on bounty suspension

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and the NFL have a disagreement.

A serious, serious disagreement.

Because a lot of things don’t add up when the league’s and Fujita’s statements are compared.

Monday, Fujita released his first statement on the three-game suspension he received last week for, the league said, making significant contributions to the New Orleans Saints bounty pool when Fujita was with the Saints.

Fujita said in a statement on his website ScottFujita.com, that he disagreed “wholeheartedly with the discipline imposed.”

He continued:

“I’ve yet to hear the specifics of any allegation against me, nor have I seen any evidence that supports what the NFL alleges in its press release.

“I look forward to the opportunity to confront what evidence they claim to have in the appropriate forum. Until then, I stand by my previous comments. I have never contributed money to any so-called “bounty” pool, and any statements to the contrary are false.

“To say I’m disappointed with the League would be a huge understatement.

“Any further questions can be directed to my union.”

Three others were suspended by the league last week: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove for eight games and defensive end Will Smith for four games.

All have denied taking part in or managing a “bounty” pool — designed to reward players for hits that injure opponents — and all say they have never seen the league’s evidence against them.

All filed a grievance challenging commissioner Roger Goodell’s right to make a disciplinary decision for matters that took place prior to the July 2011 signing of the new CBA, and Monday all appealed their suspensions.

The information from the two camps is stark in the differences.

The league said it provided material to the NFLPA twice, and asked all players to come for private interviews, which they declined. Fujita and others said they have never seen the evidence.

Too, Fujita said he never pledged money to any pool that gave rewards for injuring players. The league said he pledged “a significant amount” during the playoffs that followed the 2009 season.

Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely. Both acknowledged the bounty program existed. The players say they’ve seen no evidence.

The lack of middle ground is startling.

Goodell brings the hammer down on Saints, Payton

Roger Goodell has brought the hammer down on the New Orleans Saints and the folks involved in the bounty scandal, and the reaction to Sean Payton being suspended for a year is interesting.

FOX’s Jay Glazer said he talked to Payton and Payton was “beside himself.” He added that the suspension will cost Payton almost $8 million.

Then there’s this post on Twitter from Drew Brees, who wrote:

“I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”

The explanation really isn’t that hard to find.

Brees can read it in the NFL release, which has all the details. Details about the bounties and the lies the Saints told to cover it up.

Of course Brees needs to read it because he never had any “real” knowledge that the bounty program existed.

I’m not sure what legal recourse Payton and Gregg Williams have in this matter, but somewhere along the line I was warned not to get caught in the hysteria.

If Payton and Williams do feel their punishments are excessive for the crime, it will be interesting to see if the lawyers get involved.

Or perhaps more correctly, how soon the lawyers get involved.

One player speaks wisely on the Saints bounty program

At long last an NFL player has weighed in on the New Orleans Saints and the bounty system the league alleges took place.

FOX’s Alex Marvez caught up with Rams linebacker Brady Poppinga, who had many interesting things to say. Including:

“I just can’t sit there and be silent. I look at this as an opportunity to share with the public that we, as football players, are not barbaric and out to try and destroy everything in our path. Football is my profession and I take it seriously. It’s an art form. It’s technical, strategic and takes a lot of intelligence to play. When this came out, it started to confirm the idea that football guys are idiots. That’s not who we are.”

The interesting thing, of course, is that until free agency starts Poppinga will be a member of the Rams, and Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator behind the bounties, is his defensive coordinator.

This took some gumption to break the code and speak out when the guy who ran it is ostensibly your boss. At least for a few more days.

The thing I keep asking myself about the entire bounty thing is how can anyone fight it when the General Manager, the head coach and the defensive coordinator of the accused team came out and pled nolo contendere by saying it happened and they were responsible.

Denying it at this point sort of seems like standing in the rain saying you’re not really wet.

Then there is this tape, which is pretty chilling given all that has come out:

 

A vision of Maria alongside the Saints

At some point I’ve got to stop writing about the New Orleans Saints and perhaps weigh in on Mario Menounos.

Alas, that time has not yet arrived.

Let’s catch up on a few more things about the Saints paying money for hits to knock players out of the game:

—Scott Fujita’s comments to Peter King on the New Orleans Saints bounty situation matches with what some players and ex-players told me, that they would donate and take money for big plays. Interceptions, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, that kind of thing. But players – like Fujita – said they never took part in a program that rewarded players for hurting others. That is the lynchpin of this investigation, the one point made by the league, that makes the bounty situation so troubling.

—Someone else I know who is in the know also warned me point-blank not to get caught up in the hysteria that is taking place, that when all sides are heard an entirely different story might be told. I’m interested in seeing how that plays out, especially since Gregg Williams essentially admitted to running the bounty plan. And especially because Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis just released this statement: ”We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility. This has brought undue hardship on Mr. (Thomas) Benson (Saints owner), who had nothing to do with this activity. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him. These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans.” Perhaps not even Maria could save this situation.

—This all kind of puts the Browns concussion situation with Colt McCoy into perspective. The Browns made mistakes, but there was no intention of overlooking an injury, or intention of injuring. This scenario is far different.

—Three different ex-players opined on the bounty situation online in the past days. All echoed Fujita’s take.

Bucky Brooks:  ”While the salacious details of the ‘pay for performance’ program certainly will draw the ire of Commissioner Roger Goodell, the act of players providing cash bonuses to their teammates for impact plays has been a part of the league’s subculture for years.”

Ross Tucker: “It’s detestable, but I don’t consider it cheating. If it is in fact cheating, then every team I played for during my seven-year career cheated in one way, shape or form.”

John Lynch: “Over the past few days I’ve heard a few people, including former players, say that this is a league-wide problem. That’s total BS. I played in the NFL for 15 years for two teams and never once was offered money to knock someone out of a game.”

—Then Joe Horn chimed in on a radio interview, saying: “Everybody should be investigated before the Saints are penalized.”

 

 

Intent to injure is not part of football

The New Orleans Saints bounty program continues to be the buzz of the NFL.

The league investigated and discovered the program. It went through 18,000 documents totaling 50,000 pages — more than some small college libararies have in their collection. Its investigation sounds thorough and complete – so much so that Gregg Williams didn’t even try to say his urine sample had been mishandled in somebody’s refrigerator. He pled guilty and threw himself on the mercy of the nation.

Despite that, many players and ex-players have weighed in saying what happened in New Orleans is no different from what happens with other teams. That may be true, but the key statement made by the NFL was that the Saints paid people to deliberately injure folks.

If true, that is disturbing. And the drivel that this kind of thing is part of the game is just that.

Consider driving a car, which most folks do. Auto accidents are sometimes unavoidable. But using your car as a weapon to intentionally hurt another person is, by definition, a crime.

Carrying a baseball bat is not a crime. But swinging it and hitting another person with it is.

The stick is used in hockey, and there are rules how it can be used. Unfortunately sometimes injuries result. But taking the stick and using it as a weapon by hitting another player on the head or slashing him across the shin is, by definition, assault.

The examples could go on and on.

Because an action takes place on a field, in a park or on the ice while an individual is a member of a team does not make such action above the law.

Purposely trying to hurt another player and hiding behind the guise of “it’s football” is ignorant at best, thuggish at worst. Working together to do that sounds like conspiracy.

Yes, football is a violent game. Yes, collisions happen. Yes, they can be scary and result in serious injury – just ask Bears receiver Johnny Knox, whose back was bent back in a gruesome way last season on a play that was a complete accident.

But intentionally trying to hurt an opponent goes well beyond the accepted norm, a norm whose envelope is pushed continually. This was a team that the league claims had an organized and institutional program in place to try to injure another player.

That’s not the game.

It’s not the sport.

It’s not competition.

It’s off-the-charts lack of respect for other players.

 

Ex-Saint WR Joe Horn weighs in strong on Saints bounties

Joe Horn on ex-players now ripping Saints: “They’re lieing.”

Video: Horn talks bounties

Fujita tells SI he never offered $$ to hurt another player

Scott Fujita’s first public comments on the New Orleans Saints bounty program went to Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

In a disturbing and damaging story that went online today, King quotes a source saying Fujita contributed between $2,00 and $10,000 to the bounty pool when he was on the Saints in 2009 (the year the Saints won the Super Bowl).

Fujita now is on the Executive Committee of the NFL Players Association, and he fought diligently to reduce practice time in the new CBA to reduce the risk of injury. The dichotomy between offering to pay guys for hits that injured others with protecting players from injury could hardly be starker.

Fujita’s first statement on the issue, to King:

“Over the years I’ve paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20. But I’ve never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player.”

The NFL’s actual words on the Saints bounty program

Much has been said and written about the New Orleans Saints and the coach-run program the team had for paying guys who caused injury to other players, or who knocked other players out of games.

The league’s actual release and statement about the program contains specific details and information, and is worth reading.

As a public service, it is provided here (though clearly it is not near as valuable a public service as Maria Menounos):

NFL Discloses Findings of Investigation Into Violations of “Bounty Rule”
03/02/2012

NFL DISCLOSES FINDINGS OF INVESTIGATION

INTO VIOLATIONS OF “BOUNTY RULE”

A lengthy investigation by the NFL’s security department has disclosed that between 22 and 27 defensive players on the New Orleans Saints, as well as at least one assistant coach, maintained a “bounty” program funded primarily by players in violation of NFL rules during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the NFL announced today.

The league’s investigation determined that this improper “Pay for Performance” program included “bounty” payments to players for inflicting injuries on opposing players that would result in them being removed from a game.

The findings – corroborated by multiple independent sources – have been presented to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will determine the appropriate discipline for the violation.

“The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,” Commissioner Goodell said. “The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.

“It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.”

The players regularly contributed cash into a pool and received improper cash payments of two kinds from the pool based on their play in the previous week’s game. Payments were made for plays such as interceptions and fumble recoveries, but the program also included “bounty” payments for “cart-offs” (meaning that the opposing player was carried off the field) and “knockouts” (meaning that the opposing player was not able to return to the game).

The investigation showed that the total amount of funds in the pool may have reached $50,000 or more at its height during the 2009 playoffs. The program paid players $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs.

The investigation included the review of approximately 18,000 documents totaling more than 50,000 pages, interviews of a wide range of individuals and the use of outside forensic experts to verify the authenticity of key documents.

The NFL has a longstanding rule prohibiting “Non-Contract Bonuses.” Non-contract bonuses violate both the NFL Constitution and By-Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Clubs are advised every year of this rule in a memo from the commissioner. Citing Sections 9.1(C)(8), and 9.3(F) and (G) of the Constitution and By-Laws, the memo for the 2011 season stated:

“No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced,  or paid to a player for his or his team’s performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players).”

“Our investigation began in early 2010 when allegations were first made that Saints players had targeted opposing plyers, including Kurt Warner of the Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Vikings,” Commissioner Goodell said. “Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals. At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions. As a result, the allegations could not be proven. We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”

The additional investigation established the following facts: 

1.     During the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, the players and other participants involved used their own money to fund a “Pay for Performance” program. Players earned cash awards for plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries. They also earned “bounty” payments for “cart-offs” and “knockouts.” All such payments violate league rules for non-contract bonuses.

2.     Players were willing and enthusiastic participants in the program, contributing regularly and at times pledging large amounts. Between 22 and 27 defensive players contributed funds to the pool over the course of three NFL seasons. In some cases, the amounts pledged were both significant and directed against a specific opposing player.

3.     The bounty program was administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of other defensive coaches. Funds were contributed on occasion by Williams.

4.     Saints owner Tom Benson gave immediate and full cooperation to the investigators. The evidence conclusively established that Mr. Benson was not aware of the bounty program. When informed earlier this year of the new information, Mr. Benson advised league staff that he had directed his general manager, Mickey Loomis, to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately. The evidence showed that Mr. Loomis did not carry out Mr. Benson’s directions. Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010, he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged that he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.

5.     Although head coach Sean Payton was not a direct participant in the funding or administration of the program, he was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue.  

6.     There is no question that a bounty program violates long-standing league rules.  Payments of this type – even for legitimate plays such as interceptions or fumble recoveries – are forbidden because they are inconsistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and well-accepted rules relating to NFL player contracts. 

Commissioner Goodell has advised the Saints that he will hold further proceedings to determine the discipline to be assessed against individuals and the club. This will include conferring with the NFL Players Association and individual player leaders regarding appropriate discipline and remedial steps.

The discipline could include fines and suspensions and, in light of the competitive nature of the violation, forfeiture of draft choices. Any discipline may be appealed as provided for in the Constitution and By-Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreement. Any appeal would be heard and decided by the commissioner.

Commissioner Goodell also advised the Saints that he is retaining jurisdiction and reserving his authority to impose further discipline if additional information comes to his attention.

# # #

 

A few thoughts on the NFL’s bounty problem

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal – and make no mistake, it is a scandal – has so many different elements it’s tough to know where to start. Being this is a blog, here are some random thoughts:

—This is not an alleged incident. This happened. The league investigated, discovered and reported it. The man behind it – coach Gregg Williams – admitted to doing it. There are players on record saying Williams did the same thing when he was defensive coordinator in Washington and coach in Buffalo. This happened. And it’s not a normal part of competition. It’s excessive. It’s scary. It’s warped.

—Any reputable player with an ounce of conscience or common sense would realize how wrong it is to try to intentionally hurt another player. To do so and take money for it defies reasonable logic. In the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Saints defensive lineman Bobby McCray hit Brett Favre in the jaw after a handoff. A handoff. He was penalized 15 yards. McCray then almost took Favre’s ankle off with a low tackle after a throw. This borders on assault. If normal, average folks did something like this on the street, he or she might wind up in jail, or at least in court. Play hard, play well, but making the game revolve around an intentional attempt to injure borders on medieval sadism.

—Browns linebacker Scott Fujita played for the Saints in 2009, the first year the bounties were in place. He had a baby on March 1 (according to his Twitter account), but he has not been quoted since this news broke. As a high-ranking NFLPA official, and as a guy who has been critical of Roger Goodell, it’s tough to think of Fujita being in the middle of this as a Saint. Then again, there’s this quote from Fujita via Yahoo the day after the Saints beat the Vikings in the Championship Game:

“No doubt about it – we came out really kind of hoping to knock the [expletive] out of Brett, and I felt we did that. But that [expletive] is tough. He kept coming back at us. He’s incredible.”

Perhaps it’s just a heat-of-the-moment quote, and Fujita is a stand-up guy who would seem to be opposed to a bounty. But in light of what has been revealed it sounds pretty chilling.

—Spare me the “this happens all the time” drivel. If it does, the folks doing it should be banned. From my talks with people around the league, there might be a reward system for big plays – an interception, a forced fumble, a big return – but not for causing injuries.

–Interesting perspective from former player Matt Bowen, who admits the bounties here.

—Mike Ornstein is an NFL marketing guy who used to hang around the Browns when Carmen Policy was the team’s president. Eventually, Ornstein did eight months in jail for scalping Super Bowl tickets that belonged to teams. He never gave up whose tickets they were, though. Who reappears in the middle of the bounty scandal, as a friend of Saints coach Sean Payton? Ornstein, who evidently e-mailed Payton that he would provide some bounty money himself.

—The Saints have often been accused of acting with a lot of hubris. Much of it was obscured by the fact that the team (supposedly) helped the city by sticking around after Hurricane Katrina. The only reason they stuck around was because they had to. Saints players were told the team was moving to San Antonio. But the league stepped in, and Jerry Jones kicked and screamed about losing the San Antonio market. On several occasions since the Saints acted as if they were above the rules. Now the league admits that folsk with the Saints were not forthcoming when initially asked about the bounty program.

—From James Harrison’s Twitter: ““We’ll see how concerned the NFL is about player safety when they decide what the punishment for the saints is. I’ll just say this, if that was me I would have been kicked out of the NFL!”

—Something I don’t get: How can a $500 or $1,000 bounty on an opposing player mean all that much to a guy making $2.4 million? Or even to a guy making $750,000? This follows the “hat rule.” Because there is nothing like watching a group of NFL players swarm quite like the way they swarm when somebody brings a box of free box of hats into a locker room.

—Ryan Clark told ESPN that he was never part of a bounty system, and if he heard of it he’d stand up and say it was wrong. “To me, that’s making a statement, that’s making a stand and that’s being loyal to all the players in this league,” Clark said.

—To me, that’s a key point. Some many years ago the NHL had a “kneeing” problem. Guys would skate by someone, stick their knee out and hit another player in the knee. Serious injury resulted. It stopped when players raised an outcry and said they had to respect each other, that respect meant not hitting someone that way and intentionally hurting them. This seems to be the point with the NFL. If players truly respect each other, they don’t try to hurt each other. They play fast, they play hard, they hit, they tackle. But intentionally trying to hurt and celebrating it with cash rewards … maybe these guys should spend two months working as a Wal Mart greeter. Then they might understand how truly lucky they are.