METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Thursday witnesses in the NFL's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints have lied about him and the organization, and that their stories might change in federal court.
Alluding to a defamation lawsuit filed by Saints linebacker Jon Vilma against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vitt angrily said he feels the truth about the pay-for-pain system will come out before U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who is presiding over the pending case in New Orleans.
"If anybody's keeping a scorecard here, let's take a look at this," Vitt said. He referred back to his first meeting with reporters after the NFL released its bounty probe findings last March, in which he said, "At no point in time did our players ever cross the white line with the intention of injuring, maiming or ending the career of another player. That never took place."
Then, recounting his witness appearance in Vilma's case last summer, he added, "I've testified before a federal judge with my hand on the Bible."
"What's going to happen now is all participants, all these accusations, are going to go to federal court," Vitt continued. "They're going to go to a judge, and from top to bottom, she's going to hear testimony, and the penalty for perjury with her is going to be jail time."
Vitt's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams testified in recent NFL appeal hearings that he tried to stop the Saints' bounty program, only to be overruled by Vitt. The AP obtained transcripts from the closed-door hearings, which were held for Vilma and three other players who had been punished in the bounty probe.
Those same transcripts show Vitt later denied Williams' allegation and offered to take a lie detector test, adding, "There's a lot of lying going on right now."
Vitt called Williams a liar repeatedly during his appeal hearing testimony, even saying Williams "has lost his mind in some situations."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been defending the integrity of his coaches, saying Wednesday it was hard to believe the NFL based its case on the testimony of Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, "two disgruntled employees that were fired here because they did not fit the mold of what we are about."
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was appointed by Goodell to handle the players' appeals, and on Tuesday overturned their suspensions. However, he affirmed many of the findings of the bounty probe and found that three players, with the exception of former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, committed "conduct detrimental" to the league.
Vitt has been serving as the Saints' interim head coach this season, except for six games when he was suspended. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended the entire season and general manager Mickey Loomis eight games.
The players had fought their bounty punishment with the help of their union, through the NFL's collective bargaining agreement and in federal court.
"Myself, Sean and Mickey didn't have that right," Vitt said, referring to the fact they did not have union representation. "I've already served my time. Mickey has already served his time. And to be quite frank with you, I don't know what door to knock on Park Avenue (where NFL headquarters are located) to get my reputation back. But again, I'm going to defend our players, I'm going to defend this organization and I'm going to defend our ownership."
Vitt declined to say on Thursday whether he expects to bring any legal action of his own, though he had testified before Tagliabue that he will sue Cerullo.
Although Vilma's case is pending, the judge denied the linebacker's request this week to begin the discovery process that includes the gathering of evidence and deposing of witnesses, and she is still considering an NFL motion to dismiss the case.
When asked if he could take action against Goodell or the league, Vitt responded, "There's nothing. It's history," but then added, "We'll all be before a federal judge. That's coming. We'll all be before the federal judge. And the one great thing about this country — the truth is going to prevail."
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
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