Here are some comments by Couch in his column:
Hey, Roger Goodell: If you’ve got evidence against Vilma and the others, we’d like to see it.
I’d like to see it, too. So should every player in the NFL. So should you. Did Vilma actually pay players? Did money change hands? Who got it?
Somehow, we have been duped into believing in the righteousness of Roger Goodell. Why?
But Goodell’s actions say he wants us to just trust him. I’m not trusting anyone. We do that all the time, trusting Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky as leaders doing what’s right for young men. We trusted that Tiger Woods was a good family man, that Roger Clemens was defying age
“ This isn’t a court of law, but if Vilma is guilty, let’s see why. The NFLPA is keeping management in check and protecting its members, demanding transparency.
That’s what it’s supposed to do. Even if players league-wide were hurt by New Orleans’ bounty system, they should back their union on this and demand that Goodell produce evidence. It might be their turn next.”
Jonathan Vilma issued a statement through his lawyer following the announcement he was suspended without pay for one year.
Following is the full text of the statement:
"I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the NFL's decision to suspend me for the 2012 season. Commissioner Roger Goodell has refused to share any of the supposed evidence he claims supports this unprecedented punishment. The reason is clear: I never paid, or intended to pay, $10,000 or any amount of money to any player for knocking Kurt Warmer, Brett Favre or any other player out of the 2009 divisional playoff game, 2010 NFC Championship Game or any other game.
"I never set out to intentionally hurt any player and never enticed any teammate to intentionally hurt another player. I also never put any money into a bounty pool intended to pay out money for injuring other players. I have always conducted myself in a professional and proud manner.
"I intend to fight this injustice, to defend my reputation, to stand up for my team and my profession, and to send a clear signal to the commissioner that the process has failed, to the detriment of me, my teammates, the New Orleans Saints and the game."
The NFL said that each player is entitled to appeal the decisions within three days, and that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel. But all indications are that both the players and their union believe they'll be represented by counsel not only in front of Goodell, but also in front of a federal judge.
Vilma was the first player to deny any involvement in the bounty program and issued a statement too late. He and the other players declined to meet with Goodell face-to-face to tell their side of the bounty charges. The NFLPA may have told them to not have that meeting.
Players vented frustrations and other opinions online. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, @TheJimmyGraham, said it was "beyond ridiculous!" He tweeted "I want to see the evidence and hear an explanation." Saints quarterback Chase Daniel, @ChaseDaniel, expressed incredulity that Vilma learned of his suspension by hearing it on the news, tweeting "I was standing right next 2 @jonvilma51 when he found out about his suspension Really, he has to find out it that way?"
Former Saint Reggie Bush now with the Dolphins, @reggie, _bush wagered you couldn't find one NFL player who agrees with the suspensions. Former Saints center LeCharles Bentley @LeCharlesBent55, asked "Are players really trying to whine about Goodell being in charge...they agreed to it."
Former Saints running back and Saints radio color analyst Hokie Gajan was "delighted" with the penalties.
"To be perfectly honest with you, I'm delighted," Gajan told WWL's Garland Robinette. "There was a chance that you could lose 22 to 27 players, and now that's only two players," said Gajan. "One of those is Jon Vilma, who's been banged up the last couple of years. He's not the player he was in 2009.
"Will Smith is a locker-room leader, and probably the Saints' best defensive lineman, but we haven't gotten the same production out of him the last couple of years. Just the fact that it's these two players, that's why I say I'm delighted."
Gajan believes the Saints are still playoff contenders.
"Absolutely, as long as Drew Brees signs his franchise tag, or gets his contract done, with Drew Brees, I don't think that removing Smith or Vilma from the defense is that huge of a blow."
Mike Detillier, NFL analyst, wanted to know why it took the NFL so long in announcing the suspensions. He said the four-game loss of Smith "hurts the team more than the one-year suspension of Vilma.
"The Saints were braced for the one-year suspension of Vilma," Detillier said on WWL. "Smith's the Saints' best defensive lineman, and if you're going to make hay, you do it early in the season, so it's a bigger loss."
Goodell gets to decide on the appeals. After that, the players may pursue a lawsuit through the federal court system. Their chances would be slim there because the players agreed to Goodell having the power to decide such matters in the collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL only suspended four players because it didn't have enough evidence to suspend more.
by Ed Staton and Bayoubuzz Staff