NEW ORLEANS - With Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Bountygate still looming over New Orleans, some of the Saints are now beginning to get down right angry.
CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reports that multiple unnamed members of the team privately have complained about the situation.
One player said, "the Saints had something bad going on in the locker room, but being railroaded by the NFL isn't really right, either."
Many of the complaints by players center around the lack of evidence the Commissioner has released publicly.
Punishments included fines, the loss of draft picks, the suspensions of head coach Sean Payton for a year, GM Mickey Loomis for eight games, coach Joe Vitt for six games, as well as the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove. Fujita and Hargrove are no longer with the Saints, but Hargrove's alleged letter admitting the bounty program in New Orleans has been a very sore subject.
Here are some of the concerns expressed by Saints players to Mike Freeman:
Saints on the confusion of Hargrove's letter to the NFL:
Players point to how the league released a statement saying former Saints lineman Anthony Hargrove "submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it."
Later, Hargrove's actual statement was leaked to the media, and Hargrove himself said the league "grossly mischaracterized" his words. Hargrove maintains he didn't actually confirm the existence of a bounty program but told the NFL Saints coaches instructed him to deny one existed. These are two different things, Saints players say, are an example of the NFL's duplicity.
Players on letters sent by the coaches to the NFL:
Players say they have seen the discipline letters from the NFL to the Saints' Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis. They claim those letters don't simply state the allegations and the imposed punishment. They claim the letters tell the four men, in general terms, that if they stay mostly quiet, the league will let them back into the sport after a certain number of games.
The players feel they are being punished for words that might have been said in the locker room and not for the way they played on the field.
Sources with the NFL have told CBS's Freeman that they have solid evidence against the Saints. With Vilma's lawsuit against the NFL, we may soon see how strong the evidence is.
Until then the sentiment in New Orleans, as one player put it, "everyone in the bounty case is being railroaded. I can't believe this is happening."
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