NFC South: Sean Pamphilon

Evening update on the Saints

June, 6, 2012
METAIRIE, La. -- A few quick notes on the Saints, who had a much calmer practice Wednesday afternoon than they did in the morning session. The practice was moved indoors and essentially amounted to a walkthrough.
  • Rookie wide receiver Nick Toon has made some nice catches through the first two days of minicamp. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael responded positively when asked about Toon’s progress -- "Still impressed with his hands, runs good routes, so we're excited about him."
  • Michael Silver reports that when filmmaker Sean Pamphilon visited the NFL office several weeks ago, league officials seemed particularly interested in the portion of an audiotape where former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams discussed $200 rewards for “whack hits’’ by safety Roman Harper and former New Orleans linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Although Dunbar and Harper have not been disciplined, Silver’s source said the revelation could be significant as further evidence that the Saints ran a three-year bounty program. However, that seems to be open to debate. Two sources told Silver that “whack hits’’ are forceful and clean plays with no intention of hurting an opponent.
  • There’s no indication that anything is imminent, but there are reports that suggest quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints are only about $1 million apart on yearly average for a long-term contract. As I’ve said all along, this thing may drag on a bit longer, but I have no doubt Brees will be signed before training camp.
  • Second-year pro Martez Wilson, who is making the move from linebacker to defensive end, said he believes he someday can be a Hall of Famer. If he can be anything remotely close to that, I think the Saints, who really need to improve their pass rush, will be more than delighted.

Around the NFC South

June, 5, 2012
METAIRIE, La. -- I’m about to make my way over to the New Orleans Saints’ facility, where I’ll be watching the first of two minicamp practices Tuesday. Before I go, let’s take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Although NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t won a lot of friends this offseason, Mark Bradley writes that he’s doing what’s in the best long-term interest of the game by doing everything in his power to make it safer.

Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon talked yet again about why he released the infamous audio tape of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaking to the team the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco. I don’t know about you, but it seems the more Pamphilon talks and writes, the less clear I become about his motives.

Another sad story about a big-name player running into financial trouble after football. Former Atlanta receiver Andre Rison reportedly will be featured in the ESPN documentary “Broke” in October. Rison made at least $19 million in base salary throughout his career.

Legendary New Orleans assistant equipment manager Glennon “Silky’’ Powell is retiring after 38 years with the Saints.

Carolina tight end Gary Barnidge put on a good show while taking batting practice with the Charlotte Knights.

Carolina right tackle Jeff Otah, who injured his knee in a workout last week, is all right. Coach Ron Rivera said an MRI revealed no damage to Otah’s knee. Still, Otah’s knee remains a major question because he barely has been able to play the past two seasons.

We’ll find out in just a few hours who will be the newest member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.
We hadn’t heard from filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, the man who released the infamous Gregg Williams audiotape to the media and added another controversial layer to the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, in quite some time.

But that’s over. Pamphilon has spoken up again. On his personal website Pamphilon wrote a post that’s longer than some books I have read. He recounts his decision to go public with the audio and a lot of what he says is similar to what he’s said in the past. But there are some new twists.

Most significantly, he details how former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee and now a member of the Cleveland Browns, urged him to go public.

Pamphilon was given access to the Saints as he worked on a documentary on former New Orleans special-teams star Steve Gleason, who has been diagnosed with ALS. Gleason and his wife initially were opposed to the tape being released.

“They were emphatic Steve wasn’t willing to “burn that bridge," Pamphilon wrote.

Pamphilon said Fujita began acting as an intermediary to help convince the Gleasons to give their blessing on releasing the tapes. That never happened, and Pamphilon said his agreement with Gleason did not give the former player the right to veto the release of the tape. But Pamphilon said Fujita continued to encourage him to go public, at one point saying “sooner the better."

Pamphilon also said Fujita led him to believe that New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees also was in favor of releasing the tape. But Pamphilon got a phone message from Brees just as the tape was being released.

“In the voicemail, Brees never says NOT to release it,’’ Pamphilon wrote.

Pamphilon also said the NFLPA, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, was aware of the tape’s existence before it was released.

“At 3:12 in the afternoon Fujita texts me right after a conversation with DeMaurice Smith and says Smith 'brought up the release of the audio and his only question was if it will be released raw or edited?'" Pamphilon wrote.

Pampilon also wrote in great detail about the aftermath from the release of the tapes. Some of it was centered on people questioning his motives and his fractured relationship with Gleason. He also expresses disappointment in Brees. But the strongest part was reserved for Fujita, who no longer talks to Pamphilon.

Fujita recently met with the Cleveland media and denied any knowledge of a bounty program. When asked about the tape, Fujita said it was merely evidence of a coach saying some inappropriate things.

“In no way is this intended to be a cheap shot, but there is no chance in hell I would allow (Fujita) to teach either of my sons, an ethics class,’’ Pamphilon wrote.

NFC South evening update

April, 17, 2012
As we wait for Tuesday night’s release of the NFL regular-season schedule, let’s take a quick run through some NFC South notes.
  • Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano didn’t last too long into his first minicamp before clearly letting his players know things are going to be different. Schiano, who has a reputation for being very organized, didn’t like the way some of his players were lined up as they began stretching. “Football is about details -- toes on the edge, toes on the edge!’’ Schiano shouted. I don’t know if Schiano will end up being a successful NFL coach, but it already is obvious he’s about as different from predecessor Raheem Morris as a coach can be.
  • Speaking of the Bucs and their toes, kicker Connor Barth was a notable no show as minicamp began. Barth is carrying the franchise tag and has yet to sign his tender. Barth clearly wants a long-term deal and I believe the Bucs want him to be their kicker for a long time. They have plenty of salary-cap room to work with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a long-term deal comes between now and the start of training camp. If Barth ends up playing for the tender, he’ll make $2.654 million, which isn’t bad money for a kicker. The Bucs just announced that they have claimed kicker Kai Forbath off waivers from Dallas. Unless things get really ugly in the negotiations with Barth, Forbath probably won't end up staying with the Bucs for long.
  • Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, the man who released audiotapes of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talking to his players the night before last season’s playoff game in San Francisco, has talked to the media several times about why he did what he did. Now, Pamphilon has gone on camera to explain himself. Pamphilon also says he isn’t trying to “strong arm’’ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell into an interview in exchange for a copy of the tapes. But Pamphilon says he really, really would like to ask Goodell one question.
  • The Falcons have announced their schedule for minicamps and offseason workouts.
  • Friend and former co-worker Scott Fowler predicts the Panthers will get at least one and likely two nationally-televised games. I’ll go out on a limb and say before the night is over Carolina has at least two and possibly three prime-time games. Quarterback Cam Newton draws attention and the NFL and television networks like attention.
  • North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples said he visited with two NFC South teams. He visited the Bucs where he got to catch up with his former college coach Butch Davis, who is working as a senior advisor. But don’t look for Coples to end up with the Bucs who have more pressing needs than defensive ends. Coples also visited the Panthers and sounded like that meeting went well. I think it’s at least possible Coples could end up with the Panthers.
  • Peter King has his mock draft out. He has the Bucs taking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne at No. 5. Absolutely no argument with that one. He has the Panthers taking Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. I agree partly. If the Panthers decide to go with a defensive tackle and Cox is available, I think he’ll be the guy. But I’m not sure the Panthers will go with a defensive tackle.
  • The schedule will be announced at 7 p.m. ET. Start checking back here soon after that. I’ll be posting a quick schedule analysis for each of the four teams as quickly as possible.

Around the NFC South

April, 16, 2012
Time for a look at the top headlines around the division.
  • Chris Mortenson reports that the NFL Players Association had knowledge of the tapes of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ now-infamous speech to his players the night prior to a playoff game with San Francisco before the recordings became public April 4. Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who released the tapes to the media, reportedly has been contacted multiple times by NFL security about providing the league with copies of the tapes. Gee, just a thought here, but shouldn’t Pamphilon have given tapes to the league before -- or at least at the same time -- they were given to the media?
  • Some draft gurus are saying South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore has emerged as a likely top-10 draft pick and that he’s the second-best cornerback in the draft. LSU’s Morris Claiborne likely will be the top cornerback in the draft and he could go at No. 5 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But it wouldn’t be that surprising if Gilmore goes No. 9 to the Carolina Panthers. They need depth at cornerback and Gilmore is from Rock Hill, S.C., which is located just over the border from Charlotte. Carolina owner Jerry Richardson traditionally has shown eagerness to bring in players from the Carolinas.
  • The Falcons have talked in a lot of general terms about what new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will bring to the offense. They’re not about to lay out specifics. But here’s some speculation that Atlanta could use the empty backfield more often, and it makes sense for a team that wants to have more of a downfield passing game.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter has the Falcons taking California offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz in his mock draft. Makes sense. The Falcons at least want someone to compete with Sam Baker for the starting job at left tackle. But I think a defensive end also is a possibility for the Falcons, who don't pick until the second round (No. 55 overall).
  • Carolina quarterback Cam Newton saw a statue of himself unveiled at Auburn University recently. Newton attended the ceremony and read a poem that he said he wrote for the occasion.
  • The Saints don’t have a pick in this year’s draft until the third round. General manager Mickey Loomis said there is virtually no chance the team will try to trade up to get a pick in the first two rounds.
  • Here’s an in-depth look, complete with legal analysis, at the bankruptcy filing by former Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

More from the Saints' filmmaker

April, 12, 2012
Even if you’re tired about hearing about the New Orleans Saints bounty program, I urge you to read this fine column by Johnette Howard.

It’s about what I find one of the most interesting and complex issues in this whole saga: the decision by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon to release audiotapes of Gregg Williams, the ringleader of the bounty program, talking to his players the night before last season’s playoff game in San Francisco. It’s also about former Saints special-teams star Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS and was the person who got Pamphilon access to the meeting room in the first place.

Pamphilon talked at length about why he released the tapes. He also talked about the fallout he’s faced since then. He said hearing Williams talk so graphically about injuring specific San Francisco players left him extremely conflicted. The aftermath hasn’t been what Pamphilon expected.

"And what do you do? What do … you DO?" Pamphilon asked. "What I thought releasing this audio would do is create a public dialogue that could not be ignored … something that's going to make everyone think and talk. Because before this, people knew bounties existed. But nobody knew what a bounty actually sounded like. How disgusting it is.

"But what happened instead is most of that was swallowed up. The dialogue has shifted to 'Filmmaker betrays dying man.' And how do you defend yourself against a man who you love, when almost everyone says you betrayed him, and it's destroying your reputation? I mean, I love this guy. I love this guy."

Gleason has said he didn’t authorize the release of the tapes and said he was disappointed they became public. Pamphilon apologized for taking what he said was a cheap shot at Gleason when he said the former player was “protecting his own interests’’ in football by denouncing the release of the tapes. But Pamphilon made no apology for making the tapes public because he thought society had a right to know about the bounty program. Pamphilon said he still cares deeply for Gleason.

“It is very difficult trying to defend yourself in public against a man who has a terminal disease,’’ Pamphilon said. "I treated Steve like he was living. Not like he was dying. I met him not as the person he was before [ALS or the NFL] and I see him as a man living in a very glorious way. I see him as a fighter. I haven't seen Steve as dying. I've always seen him as a man gracefully living."
Former New Orleans safety Steve Gleason has issued a statement saying he did not authorize release of tapes of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaking to his players the night before a January playoff game with San Francisco.

The tapes were released by Sean Pamphilon, a filmmaker who was working on a project with Gleason, who is fighting ALS. Through Gleason, Pamphilon gained extensive access to the Saints last season.

“Sean Pamphilon and I have an agreement that all recordings ultimately belong to me and my family,’’ Gleason said in the statement. “Nothing can be released without my explicit approval. I did not authorize the public release of any recordings. A multitude of feelings have passed through me. I feel deflated and disappointed. I feel frustrated and distracted.’’

More from the filmmaker

April, 5, 2012
Prior to Thursday morning, I had never heard of Sean Pamphilon. Now, we all have heard a lot about the filmmaker, who released tapes of former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaking to his team the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco.

In the tapes, Williams urges the defensive players to injure several San Francisco players. We shared a statement from Pamphilon earlier, explaining why he decided to release the tapes.

On his blog, Pamphilon further explained his decision.

“Was it because I don’t go to games with a painted face and scream obscenities at underperforming players in front of young children?’’ Pamphilon wrote. “Or because I haven’t paid-for-autographed Fathead’s of my favorite ballers to stick on the wall in my home office?

“Or was it because I have friends I love dearly who played the game and got their “bell rung” so many times that I fear they won’t remember their children’s faces by the time their kids have kids? Yep, I’m pretty sure the last one was the reason I wasn’t smiling.’’

Pamphilon went out of his way to put all the blame on Williams.

“It’s a coward’s play to send someone off to do your malicious bidding,’’ Pamphilon wrote. He went on to say Williams “was ordering his players to maim in as many ways possible. Plain and simple.''

Pamphilon called Williams a “puppet master’’ and said he doesn’t see the players as being at fault.

“Anyone who blames the players for this behavior is clearly missing the point,’’ Pamphilon wrote. "Yes, the players could have said, ‘no’, but Americans play “follow the leader” and these men have families to feed and many dudes willing to come off the street to sacrifice their body for team and do it for less. The fact is the majority of men who play in the NFL are paid league minimum, with non-guaranteed contracts. How do these–mostly 20-something-year-old–men make a stand in this situation fraught with enormous peer pressure?’’

Focus turns to filmmaker

April, 5, 2012
As you might expect, a lot of Saints fans are angered at filmmaker Sean Pamphilon for releasing tapes with former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talking about injuring members of the San Francisco 49ers the night before a January playoff game.

This is coming on the same day New Orleans coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt are appealing their suspensions to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Ever since news of the Saints’ bounty program broke, some New Orleans fans have blamed everyone from Goodell to the media for having it out for the Saints. Now, that blame is shifting to Pamphilon.

I’ve gotten notes from several Saints fans questioning Pamphilon’s motives for releasing the tapes and the general mood is best summarized by New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins on his verified Twitter account.

“Sean pamphilon is a coward and should be ashamed for taking advantage of Steve Gleason! How much did u get paid for that audio?’’ Jenkins tweeted. Jenkins' tweet has since been deleted from his page.

Pamphilon reportedly was given access to the team as he worked on a documentary about former New Orleans player Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS.

In a statement to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Pamphilon explained why he released the tapes. Here's the statement:

"If this story hadn't broken and been made public, I would not have shared this it. I would not have compromised my personal relationships and risked damaging Steve Gleason's relationship with the Saints. I would have crafted these words and sentiments for another forum, perhaps years down the road. If it weren't for the fact I feel deeply that parents of children playing football MUST pay attention to the influence of men who will sacrifice their kids for W's, I would not have written this. Some will call me releasing this audio for fame or money grab. True haters will call it exploitation. People of character and conscience call it was it is: tru(e)."

What remains unclear is if Pamphilon also gave the tapes to the NFL. The league’s security department is filled with former FBI agents and others who have strong law-enforcement backgrounds and that’s the branch of the league office that conducted the investigation. It’s possible the security department had the same tapes that were released to the media.

It’s also possible the tapes are news to the NFL, just like they were to the rest of us. If that’s the case, I don’t think Payton, Loomis and Vitt will have any chance of having their suspensions reduced. If anything, Goodell could issue even stiffer punishments.