The attorney for suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma says a ledger of under-the-table cash bonuses and fines for Saints players shows no proof of bounties placed on targeted opponents.
Lawyer Peter Ginsberg said the leaking of the ledger to the media shows how “misguided and irresponsible” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been in handling the bounty investigation of the Saints.
People familiar with the ledger told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday that the document indicates payments of $1,000 for plays called “cart-offs” and $400 for “whacks,” as well as $100 fines for mental errors.
Ginsberg asserted that the commissioner interviewed the person who kept the ledger, and knows “the ‘whacks’ and ‘cart-off,’ though regrettably named, were descriptions of good, clean, legal plays, and that any dirty or penalized play resulted in fines.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he had no comment on the latest statement by Ginsberg, who is representing Vilma both in the player’s appeal of his season-long suspension as well as in a defamation lawsuit against Goodell. The defamation lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans and Goodell has until July 5 to respond to it.
The NFL has suspended four players — all of them either current or former Saints — in connection with the bounty probe. Vilma was suspended for all of the 2012 season, Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove was suspended eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith was suspended four games, and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita three. All four players have appealed their suspensions.
Ginsberg’s statement about the ledger is the latest of several instances in which players or their representatives have debated the significance of evidence gathered by the NFL in its probe of the bounty program that the league said ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran from 2009 to 2011.
The NFL, in its initial report, highlighted an excerpt from an email in which an associate of Saints head coach Sean Payton said “put me down for $5,000” on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, marketing agent Mike Ornstein, the author of the email, said the comment — which was part of an email sent from federal prison to a team spokesman and forwarded to the coaching staff — was part of a running joke he had with Williams, dating to when the Minnesota Vikings suggested the Saints had placed a bounty on then-quarterback Brett Favre in the 2010 NFC title game.