AP Source: NFLPA hires lawyer for Saints bounties
The NFL Players Association told players involved in the New
Orleans Saints’ bounty case that there is a chance they could face
criminal charges and it hired outside counsel to represent them if
While Commissioner Roger Goodell weighs how to punish the two
dozen or so players the league says might be connected to the
bounties, the NFLPA also suggested that players have a lawyer and
union representative present when they are interviewed by NFL
The union plans to head to New York this week to meet with
league security staff and review additional evidence, taking up the
NFL on an offer it made more than once.
The latest steps were described to The Associated Press on
Sunday by two people familiar with the case. They spoke on
condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The NFL has said that 22 to 27 defensive players were part of
the Saints’ pay-for-pain bounty pool, which awarded thousands of
dollars of cash bonuses from 2009-11 for vicious hits that knocked
targeted opponents out of games. One example, according to the
league: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any New
Orleans player who sidelined Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett
Favre during the 2010 NFC championship game.
On March 21, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for all
of next season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games,
assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games, and former defensive
coordinator Gregg Williams for at least one season. Goodell also
fined the Saints $500,000 and took away two second-round draft
The appeals process is expected to begin this week.
When those punishments were announced, Goodell said he would
wait for NFLPA input before determining how to discipline players
who participated in the bounties.
”While I will not address player conduct at this time, I am
profoundly troubled by the fact that players – including leaders
among the defensive players – embraced this program so
enthusiastically and participated with what appears to have been a
deliberate lack of concern for the well-being of their fellow
players,” Goodell said.
The NFL has asked the union for contact information for players.
The NFLPA, meanwhile, was told by the league it could try to speak
to Payton, Loomis, Vitt and Williams.
The league has not given any timetable for when Goodell will
decide on penalties for the players, creating uncertainty for the
Saints – as well as other teams who might now have any of the
Gabe Feldman, a law professor and director of the Tulane Sports
Law Program, said shortly after the NFL made its investigation
public that he didn’t expect any criminal or civil legal action
specifically tied to the bounties.
”They’re difficult cases to bring, because it’s hard to prove
the injury was caused by a tackle with specific intent to injure,
rather than a regular tackle,” Feldman explained at the time. ”We
all know injuries are a part of football. There can’t be legal
liability anytime there is an injury. Otherwise, you can’t have