Today when the appeals are heard we’ll finally begin to get some closure in the bounty cluster-mess, a spiraling invitation to bicker that’s made everyone hate New Orleans, and New Orleans hate everyone. Really, nobody wins here and only the Saints will lose. It’s just a matter of how much they lose, and how much their players–current and former–lose.

But since the evidence was released by the league Friday afternoon, the issue has become deeper than just a matter of suspensions, and the length of those suspensions. Namely, even after a weekend of scrutiny and analysis, we’re still not sure if Roger Goodell has any credible, conclusive evidence of bounty payments by the alleged players involved. It will be damning and disheartening if concrete evidence doesn’t exist, and it’ll forever cripple the league’s image.

Count me among those who assumed that if Goodell was set on making an unprecedented accusation that led to unprecedented punishments, definitive proof of money changing hands should exist somewhere. I still believe that, because believing anything else just seems absurd and wrong. Also, any disbelief we have comes from the words of men in suits paid to defend the alleged perpetrators, and their compensation is rooted in their ability to cast doubt.

So invite a bit of doubt right now, but do it cautiously. The main screaming voice of discontent over the weekend was Phil Williams, Anthony Hargrove’s agent. Hargrove is one of the four players set to sit out next year due to a bountygate punishment (his suspension is for eight games), and after looking over the league’s documents Williams doesn’t understand why his client can’t just play ball.

From The Associated Press:

“If these men have committed such grievous crimes that you have determined that their careers should be in danger and … their names sullied, why be so secretive about the `evidence’ that you use to condemn them?” Williams’ statement said. “Do you actually have any concrete evidence that any player from another team was injured as a result of a “bounty” and that a player from the Saints was therefore paid accordingly? … Is it possible that the overwhelming majority of this pressing dilemma is about semantics?”

Williams didn’t see any evidence of an actual payment in the league’s documents, and we agree, that does seem like a basic and essential item considering the charges at hand.

One item that will reportedly be included as evidence as the players plead their case is a text from Gregg Williams, the former Saints defensive coordinator and the bountygate mastermind. The text was sent to Mike Orstein, a former close friend of Sean Payton’s who allegedly offered up bounty money through texts of his own. Orstein later said he was only joking, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to convince Roger Goodell.

Williams’ text could help. Obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, in the text Williams tells Orstein that he tried to defend him.

“I stood up for you & told them just that. I told them we never took that (stuff) serious. I never ever saw you ever give $ and that’s just the truth.”

Since the beginning, this case has centered around the opposing words of two warring sides. That won’t change today.

And now the links part of the links post..

  • During his Father’s Day address yesterday Tim Tebow said there are a lot of role models, just “not a lot of good ones.” [CBS New York]
  • The first female scout in NFL history has launched her own website. [PRWeb]
  • Umm, hey Braylon Edwards, if a team decides that employing Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley is better than paying you, that’s bad. [New York Post]
  • How will Jim Caldwell help Joe Flacco? Will Jim Caldwell help Joe Flacco? Are there any other Flacco/Caldwell related questions? [Baltimore Beat Down]
  • Joe Banner is reportedly “having a good laugh” about DeSean Jackson’s contract, and was against paying the often disgruntled Eagles wide receiver who really, really can’t rap. [MyFox Philly]
  • Philip Rivers plans to make LaDainian Tomlinson earn his one-day Chargers contract before he can retire. First up at 5 a.m.: a swirly for 35 minutes. [KSK]
  • The Lions’ secondary only had two bad games all year in 2011. That’s all, just two. [Mlive]
  • Dolphins players are quickly discovering that being on Hard Knocks could be a successful little business venture, even if they only get a few minutes of air time throughout the entire series. [Ben Volin]
  • Drew Brees has lots of time to purchase animals since he’s not playing football. [The Associated Press]