The latest legal brief filed by Jonathan Vilma to advocate the removal of Paul Tagliabue from the players' appeals hearing in the bounty investigation reportedly includes the original email from a former New Orleans Saints assistant that had helped relaunch the NFL's probe.
ProFootballTalk.com, which obtained a copy of the brief, reported that it attaches an email, dated Nov. 2, 2011, from former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello regarding the team's alleged pay-for-pain program.
"So I have info on Saints Joe Vitt Lying to your NFL Investigators on Bounties from 2010, along with proof!!! I was there, in the cover up meetings, with players and Joe, I love the NFL and want to work there again, but I am afraid if I tell thge [sic] truth I will never coach again in NFL, But I was fired for a situation that the Saints encourage," the email reads, according to the website. "All I want is a Job back in the NFL as a QC Coach anywhere, so If talking to you jepodizes [sic] that I will have to get back to you, but The Saints are a Dirty Organization. Contact me."
The NFL handed the initial penalties to Saints coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis, as well as former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, on March 21. The original penalties instituted against Vilma and three other players were handed down May 2. They were overturned on appeal, then re-instituted Oct. 10 by commissioner Roger Goodell.
Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's attorney, reportedly says in a declaration that the NFL produced a copy of the email on Oct. 23, 2012, but that the league allegedly deleted Aiello's response to Cerullo.
Cerullo worked for the Saints from 2007 to 2009. The NFL in September commended Cerullo for coming forward to help its investigation, saying in a statement that the "information and detail he provided was credible and has since been confirmed in numerous respects both by other witnesses and by supporting documents."
Vilma had maintained earlier in the bounty appeals process that Cerullo had a vendetta against Vitt after Cerullo was fired following the 2009 season, allegedly for leaving the team on at least two occasions and then providing false excuses for the absences. The Saints linebacker alleged in a defamation lawsuit against Goodell that Cerullo vowed revenge against Vitt.
Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner who was appointed by Goodell to preside over the latest hearings, was scheduled to hear the players' appeals Tuesday, but postponed them because of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast on Monday. The hearing was to have been held in Washington D.C.
Tagliabue has not set a new date for the hearing.