Sadly, our team’s news continues to revolve not around the notable training camp performance of up-and-comers like Martez Wilson, but around the cloud of bountygate that poses the greatest threat to our hometown superbowl dreams.
At last, Sean Payton is back. Admittedly, it is only in the form of a giant hanging photo within the training camp facility with the command “do your work.” But at least his demanding and slightly disapproving visage is there with the players.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Vilma’s defamation suit against Herr Goodell proceeds in Louisiana court. Several players, including Drew Brees, have filed affidavits stating that the Saints “bounty” program was not a bounty program at all, but rather the same kind of pay for performance program, rewarding legal hits, that exists at pretty much every NFL team.
In an affidavit in Vilma’s court action, former Saints safety Pierson Prioleau, who was on the roster in the 2009 an 2010 seasons, issued a statement that stated plainly the Vilma never paid anyone for injuries. Instead, Prioleau said, Vilma acted with the highest degree of respectful professionalism.
On the stand in court, Vilma took it upon himself to explain the “kill the head” order purportedly recorded in the now-infamous playoff speech last season: “”Kill the head is when the running back is running the ball or any ball carrier has the ball, once they get tackled, you don’t want them to fall forward,” Vilma said. “If you fall forward, then they’re facing the end zone they’re going to. What you do is you tackle them and have him fall sideways, backwards, diagonal, it doesn’t matter…Mentally, you don’t want them, every play, to get confidence that they’re going to run forward, fall forward and go the way they want. Kill the heads was us making sure they didn’t fall forward. As long as their head wasn’t facing the end zone, that was a win for us, psychologically.”
During cross-examination, NFL lawyers purportedly focused only on the fact that Vilma had not raised his protests with Herr Goodell himself during the procedurally-impaired internal appeals. All reports suggest they did nothing to contradict Vilma’s statement that he had never paid to injure.
Drew Brees has also been very publicly criticizing Goodell, saying recently that “nobody trusts him…I think there’re too many times where the league has come to its decision in a case before calling a guy in, and the interview is just a façade. I think now if a guy has to come in to talk to Roger, he’ll be very hesitant because he’ll think the conclusion has already been reached.”
Clearly Vilma’s trial is proceeding on an expedited basis. The real question is, if the court finds that Vilma was defamed, and by implication that the Saints did not have a pay-to-injure scheme in place, then what? Does Vilma just take monetary damages from Goodell, or will that wanker finally admit his evidence is not sufficient to prove that a pay-to-injure scheme existed, was covered up, and as such justifies the hefty penalties imposed upon our team and our city? Forgive me, but I’m not yet confident that Goodell is the kind of guy who will admit he was wrong.