The list of doubters when it comes to the NFL's allegedly full bag of evidence against the New Orleans Saints keeps growing. From an increasingly skeptical media, to Judge Helen G. Berrigan, to the three-member panel which ruled in early September that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had gone beyond his powers, more and more people would like Goodell to bring forth the proof that four players and an entire front office conspired to injure opponents for money.
So far, the NFL has put forth a ledger of questionable origin and a signed affidavit from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- which Williams signed in mid-September, six months after Goodell issued all the well-known penalties to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, defensive assistant Joe Vitt, and players Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove.
People have started to wonder -- what do you really have against these guys, Rog?
Now, one more voice has been added to that list of skepticism -- Brett Favre, who the Saints allegedly plotted against in the 2009 NFC Championship game. Before the Saints faced the Minnesota Vikings in the game that propelled them to the Super Bowl, it has been said that linebacker Jonathan Vilma put money on the table and offered it to anyone who would take Favre out of the game. There was a series of late and questionable hits in that game, and you'd think that Favre would lead the charge against the Saints if asked.
Not so fast. In a recent interview with ESPN's Mike Tirico, Favre said that the evidence against the Saints looks as fishy to him as it does to everyone else outside the purview of the NFL's propaganda train. When Tirico asked Favre what he thought of the ruling that set aside the suspensions against the players, Favre gave a surprising answer.
"In all honesty, I'm pretty indifferent. But I'd have to say when they were allowed to play, I thought that was the right move, because I don't see enough evidence. I don't think 'Some guy said that this went on' is enough evidence. I don't know Jonathan all that well. I think he's a great player. Seems like a great leader. Seems like the guys who have played with him have a lot of respect for him, and Scott Fujita. The other guys, I really don't know. I felt like that's the right thing to do. Otherwise, I think it's just hearsay."
While this could be yet another example of the now fully-retired Favre getting his name all over the interwebs with a catchy take on things (mission accomplished, by the way), it would have been just as easy for Favre to eviscerate the Saints -- and certainly understandable, given the fact that he was allegedly one of their targets.
This isn't the first time that Favre has cast those accusations aside.
"My feeling, and I mean this wholeheartedly, is that I really don't care," Favre told Deion Sanders of the NFL Network in June. "What bothers me is we didn't win the game. And they didn't take me out of the game. They came close, but a lot of people have come close. I'm too stubborn to come out. Plus, that was kind of a big game. I'm not going to sit the last three minutes. I'm going to go out there with bones sticking out of the skin, I'm going to finish it."
The ball is back in Goodell's court now. After the panel ruled that he could only penalize the Saints players for conduct detrimental, the Commish could re-instate the penalties he did before -- a full season for Vilma, eight games for Hargrove, four games for Smith, and three games for Fujita. He could settle with the players and issue shorter suspensions, or he could drop the whole thing. That final option would be an extreme embarrassment to the league, but the doubters are closing in.
Judge Berrigan, who has heard motions and asked for more information in the NFL's appeal of Vilma's defamation suit against Goodell, said from the bench that if there was a legal way to exonerate Vilma, she would seek to do so.
No matter what Goodell does next, there's certainly a growing group of people who would like to know what he's really basing it all on.
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