The NFL Players Association has hired outside counsel to represent players who may be involved in the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal, in case the players were to face criminal charges, two sources have told The Associated Press.
The NFLPA has also suggested to the players that they be represented by an attorney and a union representative when they are interviewed by league investigators.
The NFL has indicated that 22-27 players were involved in the Saints’ “bounty” program, under which thousands of dollars were allegedly paid to players who knocked opponents out of games with big hits from 2009 through 2011. One example cited by the league: Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Vikings QB Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is weighing the punishment for each of these players, and he has asked the NFLPA for its input before he makes a ruling.
NFLPA representatives plan to go to New York this week to inspect the evidence that the league has uncovered related to the wrongdoing. The NFL reportedly has told the union that it can try to speak with Saints head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, LB coach Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, all of whom have been suspended by the league, pending hearings on the appeals.
Meanwhile, the league has asked the NFLPA for contact information for the players involved.