Today, Goodell is meeting with three other players who are being accused of taking part of the bounty. Surely the Williams affidavit will be discussed as to what they did and when did they do it.
However, if Williams is the NFL’s star witness and if the affidavit is what the former Saints coach says happened, Goodell and the NFL might only be able to prove that the New Orleans Saints engaged in a bounty program that incentivized the defense in making good legal plays and penalized them for making bad plays such as engaging in an off-sides offense.
All along, the NFL has claimed that the Saints’s bounty program intended to injure certain offensive opponents such as Brett Favre.
In his affidavit, Williams said, “During a team meeting the night before the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings that was played in January 2010, Mr. Vilma addressed the defensive players and coaches (including me) who were present and pledged $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the game. I was never given any money by anyone because of a pledge related to the injury of a particular player, because I only administered funds related to the pay for performance pool. Brett Favre was not knocked out of our game against the Vikings, so I assume the money was not paid to anyone.
In this sense, the statement supports the NFL claim that there was a bounty program and that Vilma was involved, a claim the player denies.
However, for now, that’s where Williams statement of fact stops helping the NFL and Goodell on this issue.
In fact, Williams said in his affidavit, “Therefore, it was my view and my intention that we were only encouraging clean, aggressive hits within the rules of the NFL. If after a clean, aggressive hit an opposing player left the game, a pool payment was earned, but it was the clean, aggressive hit we were rewarding. The consequence to the opposing player was a measurement of how big that hit had been, but we did not intend to incentivize and did not make payments from the pool for illegal hits or on-field misconduct.
So, Williams is clearly testifying under oath that the bounty was not designed to injure any player, including Brett Favre.
Williams was so positive that injury was never an object that he further said “I now understand that it is possible that rewarding cart-offs and knockouts and announcing that players who knock a particular opposing player out of the game will receive a substantial cash payment could encourage players to injure opposing players. At the time, while I knew that conduct violated league rules, it was never my intent to cause our opponents to be injured, but I now understand that someone could be seriously injured as a result, and therefore, I believe that this should not be part of the game.
Back in March when the NFL first broke the story, Goodell said “"The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for 'performance,' but also for injuring opposing players," Goodell said in a statement released by the league "The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.
While one can infer that knocking a player out of the game necessarily means injuring him, don’t convince the NFL’s star witness who clearly made it known that it was not his intent.
Whether the punishments imposed or to be imposed by the NFL meets the crime is ultimately up to Goodell and the NFL to decide. But, if they cannot prove that “injury” was a necessary part of the bounty, don’t be surprised should the federal court allow the defamation suit to continue that the it just might knock Goodell and the NFL out of the box with a severe judgment against them. That would show them and the world how and where a legal bounty can really hurt.
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