Report: Saints had ledger detailing bounty payments for cart-offs

Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the NFL has a “ledger” showing earnings for New Orleans Saints players in the bounty program, which includes payments of $1,000 for cart-offs, $400 for hard hits and $100 deductions for mental errors.

According to sources, the NFL showed portions of the ledger during meetings with some of those who have been investigated in the scandal.

“The players clearly knew what was going each week with the payments,” a source told Yahoo! Sports. In fact, multiple sources admitted that Saints defensive players would regularly encourage teammates to put money earned from the bounty system back into the pool. It’s unclear if that was to increase the potential winnings or eventually use the money for some other purpose.

Regardless of whether the money was paid out or not, the mere implication of a cash payment for such plays is considered a violation of league rules.

As Cole points out in his article, the ledger doesn’t necessarily prove that there was an actual transaction between Gregg Williams (or Joe Vitt, or Sean Payton) and the Saints players. But it is strong evidence that a bounty program did exist. That said, Williams has already apologized for his actions in New Orleans so it’s not as if anyone is debating whether or not the Saints had a bounty program in place. The ledger only adds fuel to a fire that’s already 20 feet high.

Of course, the NFLPA is trying to put a spin on the situation by suggesting the ledger isn’t really evidence. Says spokesman George Atallah via text message: “I guess it either qualifies as evidence, which means fair due process was violated because [the] players didn’t get to see it before they were punished or it is not hard evidence because they didn’t get to see it and cross examine the validity of that piece of evidence.”

Well said Prosecutor Atallah.

Should Goodell have shown Vilma evidence before suspending him? Probably, which is why many deem Goodell a dictator. If he had evidence that Vilma participated in the bounty program, why not show the linebacker the proof before suspending him for the entire season? Because Goodell wanted to demonstrate that he’s the one with all the power?

Still, go back two years ago when Goodell asked Williams and Payton whether or not they were running a bounty program, and they lied to his face by telling him no. If the Saints didn’t violate any rules, Williams, Payton and Vilma would be getting ready for the upcoming season. After all, let’s not lose focus of the issue at hand.

It’ll be interesting to see what piece of evidence comes out next, because you know there will be more to emerge. Whether or not Vilma will look like a fool for pressing the issue is the question.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Gregg Williams’ bounty program is the problem – not his locker room speech

Imagine for a moment that you knew nothing about the Saints’ “bounty program” or the fact that players and coaches were providing monetary motivation to injure opponents.

Does Gregg Williams’ locker room speech still sound horrifying to you?

One of Kyle Williams’ brothers is a friend of mine so when Gregg Williams started talking about testing “little No. 10’s” concussion, I cringed. My heart dropped. The specific manner in which Williams was discussing the Niners’ players and their injuries was downright disturbing.

But most of what Williams said can probably be heard in football locker rooms around the country every Saturday and Sunday. (Maybe even on Friday nights, where prep action dominants the newspapers.) Right or wrong, fair or unfair, just or unjust, a lot of Williams’ speech can be chalked up as “football talk.”

What Williams said about Frank Gore was hardly unnerving. “Kill the head and the body will die” is a phrase. When he says, “We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head,” he might as well said, “We’ve got to take Gore out of the game,” which nobody would have had a problem with. (And most people would have understood, seeing as how Gore was the key to San Francisco’s success on offense.)

“We want him running sideways,” and “We want his head sideways” are hardly shocking statements either when you keep it in the context of a football coach telling his football players to make sure the opposing running back runs east and west instead of north and south. Again, had Williams used different phrases to get the same message across, then his speech wouldn’t have been as jarring to people.

My problem isn’t so much with Williams’ poor choice of words but with his actual bounty program. Players get paid enough money to go out and inflict pain on one another – it’s unnecessary and almost cruel for a coach to be offering monetary motivation to target their opponents’ specific injuries. It’s ridiculous to pony up extra cash in order to motivate a grown man in the best shape of his life to go onto a field with the sole purpose of targeting an opponents’ knee or head. That’s not football. That’s not sport. That’s not playing for the love of the game or in the spirit of competition. That’s just inhumane.

That’s when I feel for Kyle Williams, Michael Crabtree and the rest of Gregg Williams’ bounty program victims. That’s where I draw the line and say, hey, what’s going on here isn’t right. Could Williams not have delivered such an unsettling speech? Sure, but that’s simply a matter of semantics.

Outside of the specific comments about Williams’ head or Crabtree’s ACL, it’s not Williams’ words that are so much the problem, but the manner in which he tried to execute them.

Parcells to Saints seems more like a reality than a long shot at this point

Bill Parcells can’t help himself, can he? The man can’t not coach when an opportunity presents itself.

Call it a hunch, a gut feeling, or just history simply repeating itself but I think the Big Tuna will wind up taking the Saints’ interim coaching job this season. And his recent comments to Chris Mortensen don’t suggest otherwise.

“If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll think it over and clearly I’m in some phase of the process without knowing whether it’s going to become a reality,” Parcells told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen by phone on Wednesday. “Sean’s become a dear, dear friend. I’m trying to be a friend.

“You know, when I was a young coach, there were people like Chuck Noll, Chuck Knox and Tom Landry who were there for me. I think to honor those guys who helped me, you turn around and pass that legacy on to somebody else and Sean’s an example of that. If he needs me and the owner and GM feel the same way, then I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t consider it.”

Does that sound like a man who wants to keep hanging out with his buddy Bobby Knight while relaxing in his home in Florida? It doesn’t to me. If Parcells didn’t want the job he may lead the media on for a little while but eventually he would simply and bluntly say, “I’m not coming back.”

It’s been a week since Mortensen reported that Sean Payton would approach Parcells about coaching the Saints next season and the story has yet to go off quietly into the good night. Maybe this is the juncture where Parcells is just playing the media but again, it makes too much sense for him to try his hand again at coaching.

Parcells craves being coveted and as he’s suggested, he’s interested in helping one of his protégés. The Saints are a perfect fit because they’re already modeled somewhat after Parcells himself. Granted, Parcells has always preferred a tough defense over a finesse-oriented offense, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t relish watching Drew Brees run Payton’s aggressive attack up close. (Payton was also his QB/Assistant coach in Dallas so obviously he’s fond of Payton and his offensive ideologies.) Plus, teamed with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he could hand-pick players to rebuild the Saints’ defense. They already added run-stuffing middle linebacker Curtis Lofton earlier this week, and with Parcells’ help as a talent evaluator, they could address holes along the defensive line and outside ‘backer.

If it were another team, I would be more hesitant to suggest that Parcells would come back. But because he knows it’ll only be for one year and he doesn’t have to completely start from scratch (the Saints are already a Super Bowl contender), he can go after his third championship and then exit stage left next January or February. Maybe his heart isn’t in it to deal with the media, but I think he’ll overlook that one aspect for a golden opportunity to win another title.

Update: As I was writing this, Mortensen said on SportsCenter that his “gut feeling” is Pracells will be the Saints’ head coach.

Bill Parcells would be the ultimate coup for the Saints

Leave it to Sean Payton to call the right audible at the line of scrimmage to put the Saints into scoring position.

Roger Goodell is trying to punish the Saints for their “bounty program” and Payton is about to turn the entire situation into a positive for his team. How so? ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported earlier today that Payton has approached Bill Parcells about coaching the Saints during his year-long suspension, which starts April 1. While the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora considers a Parcells-Saints union “unlikely,” FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reports that Payton will meet with Parcells this week. Parcells has been out of the league since 2006, but he’s known as one of the best talent evaluators the NFL has ever seen.

Parcells and a ready-made Super Bowl contender? So much for being punished.
In Parcells, not only would the Saints land a Super Bowl-winning head coach to fill in for Payton, but they’d also have a tremendous talent evaluator study their roster for a year. If you’re a musician, that would be like having Mozart playing your songs while simultaneously giving you helpful hints to improve your music for years to come.

While there are probably a number of hurdles that the Saints would have to jump to bring Parcells in, it seems like a great fit for both sides. After all, Parcells’ skin starts to crawl if he’s in one place too long, so knowing that this is just a one-year stint he could try to win one more Super Bowl before calling it quits for good. Hey, why not if you’re him? He’s one of those guys that need to stay busy and he’s constantly looking for the next big thing.

That next big thing could be the New Orleans Saints, who would essentially cancel out the punishment that was levied by Goodell last week if they can land the “Big Tuna.”

Saints claim they’re not getting rid of Vilma but their actions say otherwise

Mickey Loomis says that middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is “still
a big part of our team,”
but the Saints’ latest signing would suggest that the GM is blowing smoke.

The Saints signed free agent middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to a five-year deal on Saturday night and while the financial terms have yet to be released, chances are the former Falcon is being paid like a starter. (After all, he was the defensive captain for the past four years in Atlanta.)

My point is that the Saints didn’t sign him as an insurance policy for Vilma, or for emergency starts. Some have suggested that new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo could use Lofton on the outside, but that’s a dangerous proposition for the Saints. L0fton is a solid two-down “thumper” in the middle of a 4-3 and that’s where he needs to play in order to be successful. Granted, he has improved his coverage skills since his rookie year in ‘08, but pass defense will never be one of his strengths. Thus, to expect him to hang with tight ends and running backs as a strong-side ‘backer isn’t a realistic option. (To strengthen my point, let me point out that the Falcons have been re-signing their own players left and right this offseason and yet decided to let Lofton walk. That’s because they plan to play more nickel under new DC Mike Nolan and thus, Lofton wasn’t worth the money to essentially be a two-down run-stuffer.)

Which leads me back to Vilma. Despite what Loomis says, there’s still a very good chance that Vilma has played his final down in New Orleans. The Saints will probably wait until they know the severity of his punishment for his involvement in the team’s “bounty program” before they do anything. But I doubt we’ll see Vilma and Lofton lining up in the same linebacker corps next season.

If Vilma is suspended for half the season, the Saints could try to trade him for a late round pick. I doubt another team would bite with Lofton already on the roster, but it’s worth it for the Saints to try and see. And if he’s only suspended four games, Vilma’s trade value obviously goes up, so there’s no reason to release him now.

But either way, Lofton is the team’s long-term answer at middle linebacker. Don’t let the Saints fool you into thinking otherwise.

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