Up to this point, the Saints bounty scandal has largely been comprised of contradicting reports, finger-pointing and unsubstantiated claims. You've had players accusing the NFL Commissioner of essentially fabricating a case against them based on false information; you've had the league calling some of its players liars, and then implicating them in a pay-to-injure scheme without offering any sort of legitimate evidence.
The general public is really no clearer on what exactly transpired today than it was a few months ago when this story initially broke.
That said, here is one thing we should all be able to agree upon even with the limited amount of information available: former Saints defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, seems like the shadiest guy ever. After playing a central role in the bounty scandal just by virtue of the position he held while it was going on, Williams has now apparently decided to throw (at least) one of his guys under the bus.
On Monday, during a meeting between Jonathan Vilma and Roger Goodell, the Saints linebacker and his attorney were presented with a sworn statement from Williams that essentially stated that he (Vilma) put a $10,000 bounty on Brett Favre.
Here is the pertinent part of the statement (via Deadspin):
The Saints reached the playoffs during the 2009 season and ultimately won the Super Bowl in February 2010. The pay-for-performance pool continued to operate during the 2009 NFL season playoffs. During a team meeting the night before the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings that was played in January 2010, Mr. Vilma addressed the defensive players and coaches (including me) who were present and pledged $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the game. I was never given any money because of a pledge related to the injury of a particular player, because I only administered funds related to the pay for performance pool. Brett Favre was not knocked out of our game against the Vikings, so I assume the money was not paid to anyone.
When news of Williams’ statement broke, Vilma’s legal team wasted no time issuing a response.
"What Gregg Williams said in his most recent affidavit is the same falsity he has previously provided," said Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg (via ESPN).
"I don't know what Gregg Williams' motives are, but I do know that any suggestion by Williams that Jonathan put up $10,000 as an incentive for his teammates to injure another player is absolutely false."
Regardless of where you come down on Vilma’s culpability in this scandal, one can’t help but cringe at Williams’ inherent sleaziness. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he wasn’t personally involved in the bounty scandal because he’s such a good human being. (You know, despite the fact that we have audio of him instructing his players to kill opposing players and exploit their injuries.) Just for the simple fact that he was overseeing the defense when this stuff is going on, he should be forced to take the brunt of the punishment for what transpired. If he was aware of the bounty on Favre being placed, obviously he was in a position to do something about it. He opted not to. That should disqualify him from any sort of leniency as far as punishments go.
But the reality is that he’s most likely not a good human being. Vilma knows it. Williams knows it. We know it.
Williams was involved in some way, shape or form – and now he’s just trying to weasel his way back into the league by throwing one of his former guys under the bus.
It’s pitiful, really.
Vilma personally responded to Williams’ statement on Twitter yesterday:
You obviously want me to be guilty if you cant see that gregg was bullied to sign the affidavit. He signed 3days ago! #weakattempt
— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 18, 2012
Maybe. Or maybe Williams volunteered to do it, sans bullying, because he’s such a shady person.
Either way, it looks like Vilma is going to stay the course with this fight. That in turn means this story isn’t going anywhere.