NFC South: Mary Jo White

Around the NFC South

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
10:28
AM ET
Let's take a run through some odds and ends from around the NFC South:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs reportedly are pursuing San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson. If they get him, that means Ronde Barber’s time at free safety is over. The Bucs have told Barber they want him back for another season, but it probably would be as the nickel cornerback. It remains to be seen if Barber would accept that role, retire or try to play somewhere else.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Louisiana senator David Vitter reportedly plans to ask Mary Jo White about her findings after she was hired to evaluate the NFL’s investigation of the bounty scandal. White has been nominated to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

In at least one estimation, the Panthers are expected to be the least active team in free agency. Can’t really argue with that one. The Panthers are just under the salary cap and they already have a ton of money committed to the 2014 cap. Essentially, their hands are tied.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jeff Schultz writes that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons bring back defensive end John Abraham if he can’t get a big contract elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised either. Abraham is getting some interest on the market, but it’s hard to imagine any team handing out big money to a 34-year-old. Still, if Abraham comes back, it’s nothing more than a bonus. The Falcons have to get a pass rusher in free agency or the draft.
The fallout from the suspensions of players in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program literally is turning into a “he-said/she-said’’ battle.

Earlier, we told you that NFL outside counsel Mary Jo White said the league had ample evidence to justify the evidence.

Now, Richard Smith, the lead outside counsel for the NFL Players Association is firing back.

“I was at the meeting with the NFL’s lead investigators in March. She was not there,’’ Smith said. “Anyone, especially former prosecutors like both of us, know that what the league provided could never be called ‘substantial evidence’ of player participation in a ‘pay-to-injure’ program. Worse yet, Mary Jo provided nothing new or compelling today beyond another press briefing.’’
An attorney from the private sector who advised the NFL during the Saints bounty investigation disputed linebacker Jonathan Vilma's claim that he did not intend to pay bounties for knocking Kurt Warner and Brett Favre out of playoff games in the 2009 season and the he never set out to intentionally hurt another player.

“The evidence overwhelmingly supported the charges,’’ Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney, said in a conference call with the media Thursday. “I haven’t seen the statement that Mr. Vilma may have issued. He plainly, as were the other players, was invited to participate with counsel in an interview to provide his side of the story if there was a different side of the story. He declined to do that.

“If you look at the press release issued yesterday, plainly the conduct there is quite specific as to bounties being pledged by Mr. Vilma. On two occasions, you know the identities of whom the bounties were placed on, the amount of the bounties and when they were placed. There is very, very strong evidence from multiple independent sources reporting those charges.’’

White also said that defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) said he was told to lie about the bounty program when asked about it in 2010. Hargrove since has signed a declaration admitting the bounty program existed and he took part in it. White was asked if Hargrove disclosed who initially told him to lie to investigators.

“He did, but I don’t think it is appropriate to reveal that,’’ White said.

White went on to repeatedly emphasize how strong the NFL's evidence was. You can read more of what she had to say here.

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