Goodell's letter to Saints LB Vilma

Posted Oct. 09, 2012 @ 5:38 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

NFL commissoner Roger Goodell reaffirmed Saints LB Jonathan Vilma's season-long suspension for his role in the team's bounty program. Here's Goodell's letter to Vilma.

“At our meeting, you confirmed that cart-offs and knockouts were part of a broader program in place among the Saints’ defensive players. You confirmed that these terms referred to plays in which an opposing player has to leave the game for one or more plays. You confirmed that, as Coach Vitt testified, an opposing player’s need for smelling salts under a trainer’s care was a consequence of the kind that the program sought to achieve and for which players were offered cash rewards from the incentive pool.

“I also find that you engaged in conduct detrimental by offering a substantial financial incentive to any member of the defensive unit who knocked Brett Favre out of the Saints’ 2009 NFC playoff game against the Vikings. (There is also credible evidence that you made a similar pledge regarding Kurt Warner in the immediately preceding playoff game against the Cardinals, but whether you made multiple pledges of that kind does not matter for purposes of the discipline that I have decided to impose.)

“Both Coach Williams and Mr. [Mike] Cerullo have submitted statements under oath attesting to the fact that you made such an offer at a pre-game meeting of the Saints’ defensive unit. I have personally met with both men and have had an opportunity to assess their credibility. I am not persuaded by any suggestion that either Mr. Williams or Mr. Cerullo had an incentive to testify falsely, under penalty of perjury, about such conduct by you or by any other player. With respect to Coach Williams, you and he have repeatedly spoken highly of each other, and nobody has identified any reason why he would make false charges against the Saints or you in particular. In that respect, it is telling that even though he had already left the Saints and signed a contract to be the Defensive Coordinator for the Rams, Coach Williams continued to deny the existence of the program in its entirety, and acknowledged the program and his role in it only after detailed questioning by our investigators. 

“Equally important, neither Mr. Williams nor Mr. Cerullo was made aware of the substance of the information provided by the other in the investigation; as one example, each independently volunteered to investigators that the bounty that you pledged with respect to Mr. Favre was in the specific amount of $10,000.

“Furthermore, Coach [Joe] Vitt recalled that players made a number of pledges at that particular meeting and that the meeting ‘got out of hand.’ Mr. Fujita informed me that he believes that players made pledges of payments for ‘big plays’ at that meeting. Those statements support the written declarations, made under penalty of perjury, by Coach Williams and Mr. Cerullo about the events of that evening. In contrast, your statement that nothing out of the ordinary happened and that no pledges were made by anyone at that meeting is inconsistent with the information provided by other players and is simply not persuasive.

“In addition, as you know, in early 2010 a Vikings player informed Coach Childress that a Saints player had told him that a bounty had been placed on Mr. Favre. There is also video evidence that a Saints player said; ‘Give me my money’ immediately after Coach Vitt told the defensive unit (incorrectly) that Mr. Favre’s leg had been broken and that he would not be returning to the game.

“I find, based on all of these facts and the entire record described above, that you did, in fact, pledge money to any teammate who injured or disabled Mr. Favre to an extent that he would not be able to continue playing in the playoff game. I recognize that you and some of your teammates have denied that you made such a pledge or claim not to recall your doing so, but I am persuaded, based on the entirety of the record before me, that you did so. And I find that such a pledge or any similar incentive is conduct detrimental.”