|Smith wants a new investigation, and he wants it now. (Getty Images)|
It's no secret that the NFL players and the NFLPA have not been pleased with how the NFL conducted its investigation of the Saints bounty program and the punishments that were meted out because of it.
On Thursday, Saints interim coach Joe Vitt -- who, himself, will serve a six-game suspension once the season begins -- wondered aloud if the evidence implicating him and his team had been tampered with or falsified.
"I stated from Day 1 to investigators -- and I hope they took good notes -- our players have done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong," Vitt said. "Our players never crossed the white lines with an intent to injure anybody."
That outcry has been shared by all the players who have been suspended (Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith), and now, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wants the NFL to embark on a completely new investigation. That's the message he shared Friday in a letter sent to the league (obtained by PFT -- read the entire letter here).
Already, the NFL has been accused of covering up alleged retractions made by key witnesses-- which the league strongly denies -- and obviously, the NFLPA believes a fresh start is needed.
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Here's what the NFLPA wrote:
"As you know, prior to the hearing on June 18, 2012, on behalf of Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith, we wrote to you on several occasions requesting disclosure of all evidence, including all potentially exculpatory information regarding the players' alleged involvement in the behavior for which they were purportedly disciplined,” the letter states. "Additionally, we asked that the NFL compel the appearance of witnesses, several of whom supposedly possess first-hand knowledge of the alleged events and over whom the NFL has control, including Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt. The League refused to do so.
"We made those requests to avoid the exact circumstance that the NFL has now created, namely, an “investigation” that has come under question for being unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete. In the days since the June 18 hearing, first-hand 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 …
"This investigation unfairly painted players with a very broad, disparaging brush and has thrown the integrity of the process under the CBA into question. As a fellow steward of this game, and wholly apart from the union's and the players' legal objections, in light of these retractions and contradictions that have come to your recent attention, I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a “pay to injure” scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings."
Smith also told PFT he plans to talk to Goodell and tell him about the faults of the NFL's investigation.
“Frankly, I believe that the investigators let the commissioner down,” Smith said. “Our hope, and certainly it will be a message from me to the league soon, is that given all of the recantations and all of the contradictions and, as exemplified by the (Hargrove) video, all of the things that are clearly not clear, shouldn't we be taking another hard look about where this investigation failed the commissioner?”
It's interesting that Smith characterizes the fault lying at the feet of the investigators and not Goodell himself. Even if it's an effort to buy goodwill, I think ultimately this request will go unheeded. An investigation, even if it was a flawed investigation, has been completed, and Goodell has decided on the punishments. It's a rare occurrence when he completely backtracks and starts over. On this issue, which has become so vital this offseason, I don't see how Goodell could admit that the flaws are so catastrophic that the entire process needs to begin again.
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