Jonathan Vilma wants to play football in 2012, and he’s not impressed with Roger Goodell, the league sheriff who’s now suspended the Saints linebacker for the entire season following his alleged involvement in the Saints bounty scheme.
He’s so mad that he issued a long statement completely denying any responsibility or role whatsoever in the bounty mess.
“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 Warner, 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 or helped to create 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.’’
I’ve been on Team Goodell throughout this process, which is only slightly less cool than being on Team Edward. It wasn’t just the mere act of implementing bounties that was grimy in New Orleans; more importantly, it was the blinding arrogance of the Saints to continue with their program after repeated warnings. That’s why a whole library of books being thrown at both the Saints players and coaches is easily justifiable.
I can only say that, though, as an observer who’s read the information given to the public by Goodell. It’s the same information you’ve seen, and we have to trust it, because it’s all we have. Oh sure, conspiracy theorists lurk in parental basements everywhere, but it’s quite difficult to imagine Goodell fabricating such a historic league crime.
The problem lies in this disconnect between the players and coaches involved, and the production of hard evidence. Namely, the fact that there’s been no production of hard evidence from the league’s end whatsoever. It’s odd and troubling that Vilma and the NFLPA claim they still haven’t received any hard evidence. Maybe they should have met with the league prior to the suspensions, an opportunity that all four suspended players declined.
Regardless, if the league can produce a document that’s well over 1,000 words long detailing the infractions, surely it would be easy to show the proof to the guilty parties in some format even in the absence of a formal meeting. But that leads to another question: why the hell did Vilma wait so long to issue his own lengthy statement?
He was well aware that a suspension was forthcoming, and saying nearly these exact same words a month or so earlier would have placed public pressure on Goodell to either produce and share the evidence, or give him a lesser punishment.
Instead, he’s now left to do little more than what every guilty person does: claim innocence, and then look even more guilty.