DeMaurice Smith sends letter
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has written to Roger Goodell asking the NFL commissioner to reopen the investigation of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.
In an interview with Pro Football Talk Live, Smith said he intended to talk to Goodell and would point out areas of the investigation that he believes failed, in addition to particulars that he says the league should re-examine.
Our hope, and certainly it will be a message from me to the league soon, is that given all of the recantations and all of the contradictions and, as exemplified by the video, all of the things that are clearly not clear, shouldn't we be taking another hard look about where this investigation failed the commissioner?” -- NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith
"Frankly, I believe that the investigators let the commissioner down," Smith told Pro Football Talk Live. "Our hope, and certainly it will be a message from me to the league soon, is that given all of the recantations and all of the contradictions and, as exemplified by the video, all of the things that are clearly not clear, shouldn't we be taking another hard look about where this investigation failed the commissioner?"
On Monday, the NFL released a horde of evidence gathered during its investigation of the Saints. The evidence included a sheet of paper the league alleges showed a $35,000 prize, with $5,000 donated by Saints interim coach Joe Vitt, specifically, for knocking former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
The league also showed a video clip in which former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove purportedly said, "Give me the money," regarding injuring Favre.
In his letter to Goodell, obtained by PFT, Smith said the league's investigation "has come under question for being unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete.
"In the days since the June 18 hearing, first-hand witnesses to the Saints defensive team meetings who the League actually interviewed, have clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information they provided to NFL investigators and knowingly misrepresented the facts surrounding this investigation," Smith wrote.
In the letter, Smith cited several "mischaracterizations" league investigators made to the commissioner, as well as several cases of "extremely specious evidence" that the NFL used:
• Vitt insisted to investigators that Saints defenders never had intent to injure opposing players, never attempted to injure using illegal techniques and never targeted players with alleged bounties on them.
"I stated from Day 1 to investigators -- and I hope they took good notes -- our players have done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong," Vitt said, according to the letter. "Our players never crossed the white lines with an intent to injure anybody."
• Mike Ornstein, a close friend and confidant of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, refuted what investigators told Goodell.
Ornstein is alleged to have sent Payton emails from prison offering up bounties for hits. But Ornstein said the emails weren't intended for Payton or former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams, nor did they place bounties on players.
• Smith says there is no visual evidence of Hargrove saying, "Give me the money," in the subtitled game clip from the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
• Smith also says the league has failed to identify the author or any first-hand witnesses of the piece of paper the NFL alleges depicts a $35,000 bounty prize against the Vikings.
Smith wrote the holes in the evidence and the denials of key parties such as Vitt and Ornstein are telling.
Saints Bounty Scandal
An NFL investigation found the New Orleans Saints operated a bounty system that rewarded 22 to 27 players for hard hits and for injuring opposing players. Profile »
"All of this information makes it clear that the people who presented the information from the NFL's investigation to you egregiously failed you because they did not present a full and complete account of the entirety of the testimony and information they received," Smith said in the letter.
The NFL responded to Smith's letter Friday.
"I wish that (Smith) would have come to the hearing on Monday because he would have seen how earnest an effort the commissioner personally made to have the players comment and tell him what their side of the story is," league counsel Jeff Pash told ESPN. "I think he would have been very impressed by the presentation Mary Jo White (an outside lawyer hired by the NFL to review its bounty probe) made.
"He would have had an opportunity to see the evidence and hear the witness statements and how it all weaves together, which is how a good prosecutor puts a case up. It is a mosaic. Focusing on any one piece of the mosaic may not tell you very much. When you put it all together, it paints quite a clear picture. If De had been able to be here Monday and participate in the hearing, he would have a different view perhaps than what he has today."
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