NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith on Friday called for the NFL to scrap the results of a monthslong investigation into the Saints’ alleged bounty program. Smith, calling the investigation “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete,” said he believes a new investigation should be launched into the program, which the NFL said ran from 2009-11.
Smith wrote a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell to detail his concerns about the investigation. Goodell held an appeal hearing Monday for four players suspended in connection with the alleged program: Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.
“In the days since the June 18 hearing, firsthand witnesses to the Saints defensive team meetings who the league actually interviewed have clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information they provided to NFL investigators and knowingly misrepresented the facts surrounding this investigation,” Smith wrote.
He cited statements from Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, Hargrove and Mike Ornstein, a close friend of suspended head coach Sean Payton who was implicated in the bounty program, that contradicted findings by NFL investigators. Smith also complained that the league did not allow witnesses to appear at Monday’s hearing.
Goodell did not immediately respond to Smith’s call for a new investigation. Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead attorney who was among those who briefed reporters on the evidence presented at the appeal, expressed disappointment Smith didn’t participate in the hearing. Former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White delivered the presentation to the players, as well as a dozen reporters who were briefed afterward.
“I wish that (Smith) would have come to the hearing on Monday because he would have seen an earnest effort the commissioner personally made to have the players comment and tell him what their side of the story is,” Pash told Mike Florio in an interview on Profootballtalk.com. “I think he would have been very impressed by the presentation Mary Jo White made. De, as a former federal prosecutor, knows Mary Jo. I am sure he holds her in the same high regard that lawyers and judges across the country hold her and understands what a consummate professional she is. He would have had an opportunity to see the evidence and hear the witness statements and how it all weaves together, which is how a good prosecutor puts a case up. It is a mosaic. Focusing on any one piece of the mosaic may not tell you very much. When you put it all together, it paints quite a clear picture. If De had been able to be here Monday and participate in the hearing, he would have a different view perhaps than what he has today.”
The NFL invited Smith and other union officials to attend the hearing. NFLPA lead attorney Tom DePaso did attend the hearing, as did outside counsel Richard Smith.
The league has indicated it received no new information from the union, and players declined to respond to or refute charges made during the hearing.