The search for proof during the Great Bounty Debate of 2012 has left us with evidence of money exchanged and offered that’s heavily in doubt, and a videotape where words are said by someone, but the source of that voice is questionable and likely impossible to determine.

So will there ever be a resolution to this little quagmire? No, never. There will be a conclusion, but not a resolution. The end should come soon in the form of a ruling–and I use that word very, very loosely–from Roger Goodell regarding last week’s four appeal hearings. It’s a little odd that we’re still waiting for that ruling, which hints at Goodell possibly reconsidering the veracity of his evidence, and especially the tape of Anthony Hargrove referencing bounty money that isn’t really a tape of Anthony Hargrove referencing bounty money.

But realistically, Goodell can’t just topple over one domino, because overturning or altering one decision essentially means he’s indirectly admitting that the entire investigation is flawed. Sheer stubbornness will prevent that from happening, along with the fact that league lawyers have publicly vouched for the truth of each piece of evidence, meaning Goodell flew past the point of no return several exits ago.

The four current and former Saints players in question (Hargrove, Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, and Will Smith) are surely aware of this reality, especially since they had a hearing to discuss their conduct last week and collectively they didn’t present any new evidence to the league that directly refutes the charges. But even if they’re as good as formally convicted in Goodell’s court, Saints players will still continue to defend their team in the always fickle court of public opinion.

Stepping up to the mic this morning was Drew Brees, who referenced “tough guy talk” several times during an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning.

Sure, Drew, we’re all still waiting for definitive evidence that can’t possibly be questioned, and I still remain convinced that the league isn’t showing its entire hand. But even if the alleged actions and bounty payments can’t be proven (yet), I heard far more than mere “tough talk”¬†on the audio of Gregg Williams’ demented speech before a playoff game against the 49ers this past January.

It was much more than “careless and irresponsible” too, as Williams was utterly insane. It’s been a while, so you’re forgiven if the quotes from that frothy speech are a little hazy in your memory. A quick refresher:

“We have to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want his head sideways.”

“Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head”

“We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fakeass primadonna, or if he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find that out. If he becomes human, then we take out that outside ACL.”

“We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore’s head.”

“We need to decide how many times we can bullrush, and we can put Vernon Davis’ ankles over the pile.”

In one breath Brees admits that his team employed a mad man, and in the other he softens the blow by calling it “tough talk.” He can’t have it both ways, and few would agree with the latter characterization.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • The players and union leaders involved in the bounty mess would like you to believe that Goodell is judge, jury, and executioner, as Vilma now so famously said. And he is, but they forget to tell you one pretty important detail that makes their entire argument a waste of breath: a year ago the players had a chance to change the disciplinary system, and they didn’t, instead agreeing to keep Goodell in his role, and keep everything status quo. [Andrew Brandt]
  • Yesterday we wrote at length about Adam Jones’ speech to this year’s rookies at the rookie symposium. He made an interesting analogy, comparing an NFL player to a CEO, only on a much more personal level. Meanwhile, in his speech Michael Vick stressed responsibility and owning your actions, and he admitted that during his Atlanta years he flew home every week when he should have been studying film. [Bleeding Green Nation]
  • Both of the Ryan brothers are supposed to be elite defensive minds, but in the overall head-to-head matchup over the years, not-so-sexy Rexy is demolishing Rob, who’s presumably been distracted by the constant repairs required to maintain his 1999 Econoline van. So, who wins this matchup in 2012? [Daniel Jeremiah]
  • June is a time for reflection and anticipation through watching tapes of old games. That sounds blissfully poetic, but really it’s just a way to pass the time without slipping further into insanity and possibly developing scurvy, because somehow that seems possible without football for this long. So let’s watch the tape of a few key players together (Shonn Greene, Pierre Garcon, and Randall Cobb), and see what we can see. [Evan Silva]
  • In other signs that it’s June, the Bills defensive tackle depth chart is a muddled mess. [Buffalo Rumblings]
  • Is this the end for Troy Smith? We can only hope. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • Josh Scobee hasn’t heard from the Jaguars in “months,” and now there’s less than one month before the deadline to sign franchise tenders. [Big Cat County]
  • If you’re on the Twitter–and since we’re now halfway through the year 2012, you’re looking pretty¬†curmudgeon-y if you’re not–you should probably follow all of these guys now. [Top 25 NFL Twitter accounts with less than 10k followers]
  • Quick shameless self-promotional note on the above item: our own Alen Dumonjic is listed! I guess we can pretty much call it a day now.