Vilma: Goodell Turned Saints Players Into "Media Criminals" With Bounty Investigation
Saints LB Jonathan Vilma had some strong words for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying that he did not think Goodell handled the team’s bounty scandal properly. Vilma said, “I don’t agree with the way he publicly chastised us, turned us into these media criminals, thugs, whatever you want to call us before even hearing our side of the story. March 2nd was the first time this ‘Bountygate’ exploded … and then it was Jonathan Vilma put $10,000 on Brett Favre. No one ever asked me, not one time before that, ‘Is this true? Did that happen? Why are they saying that?’ So I don’t think he handled it well at all.” Goodell last month recused himself from hearing the appeal of his suspensions of four players in the bounty scandal, and Vilma said, “It just doesn’t look good, and the reason why it doesn’t look good is because you can’t put anything on paper and show it to me and say this is what you did. I think if he handled it man-to-man, behind closed doors and asked, ‘What happened?’ and we work together from there. I think it would’ve been better off.” Saints coach Sean Payton is suspended this season for his alleged role in the bounty system, and Vilma said it is “tough” not to have him around. He said, “You have the real Sean that we know down here with the Saints. The organization knows him and New Orleans knows him. But then you have this outside perception of Sean that he’s some sort of a renegade coach and he hides stuff, and that’s just not true” (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 11/5).
TAGLIABUE NOT STEPPING ASIDE: ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen cited sources as saying that former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "denied a motion to recuse himself as the arbitrator for the appeals hearing" of players disciplined in the bounty scandal. Tagliabue "informed the players' attorneys of his decision, stating he will move forward with establishing a date for the hearing and also formalizing the process on which the appeal will be heard." Sources said discussions of the process will take "a fair amount of time." One source said that the hearing is "scheduled for Nov. 20" (ESPN.com, 11/5).