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No smoking gun but plenty enough to shoot holes through Saints' case

by | National NFL Insider
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Vilma (right) has allegedly been involved in bounties since his Miami days. (Getty Images)  
Vilma (right) has allegedly been involved in bounties since his Miami days. (Getty Images)  

The ledger.

It is not a visually impressive document. Two sources described it to CBSSports.com but gave conflicting accounts of its significance. One said the ledger has dates, amounts -- sometimes in the thousands of dollars -- that chronicle the Saints' bounty system. It's proof, this source said, that the team ran a system that rewarded players for illegal hits. Some of the Saints called the person who kept the document "The Bookkeeper" after the character from the movie The Untouchables.

Another source who has seen the ledger said it contains errors and doesn't have exact proof that players were paid to injure. Yet the person, a strong doubter of the NFL's case against the Saints, admitted the ledger "looks bad for the Saints."

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It isn't a smoking gun, but the ledger -- and other recent evidence -- is another piece of a picture showing Saints guilt.

And this is what some of the latest news to come out about the Saints demonstrates overall. There continues to be a piling of circumstantial and specific evidence of wrongdoing.

All of this continues to show one thing: The Saints are busted. Now there will be people who dispute this, and that's fine, but the problem remains the Saints players and their supporters keep fighting like none of this information matters.

The players keep saying: Show us the evidence. There's already plenty. There's so much that if this were a court of law, the Saints would have been denied bail and Shawshanked down to the cell block.

The recent news includes two other things besides the ledger, one recent, one a blast from the past that has been forgotten, but has great significance.

The producer and the voicemail: Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon may be a rabid self-promoter -- check that, there's no maybe -- but the voicemail he provided to CBSSports.com RapidReporter Larry Holder is one of the more interesting pieces of proof in the bounty case. Yes, proof.

Because on the voicemail, Drew Brees acknowledges he knows of that vicious Gregg Williams audiotape, when all along Brees has played innocent to all aspects of the bounty scandal. This leads to a fair question: What did Brees know about the bounties and when did he know it? He knew about the tape, clearly, so why can't people assume he know about other things, like the ledger?

"Just be truthful," Pamphilon told Holder. "Don't worry about how this affects your marketing campaign. Don't worry how it's going to affect you in the public arena. ... He is supposed to be an advocate for player health safety. I want him to do his job."

The ledger, the tape…again ... not smoking guns, but pivotal and circumstantial pieces of the larger picture.

The booster.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has sued Goodell for defamation, claiming he has never been involved in a pay-to-injure scheme. What almost everyone has forgotten is that this isn't the first time Vilma has been accused of such a thing.

Yahoo Sports reported on notorious booster Nevin Shapiro, who spoke at length about Vilma.

Shapiro said he gave Vilma, when at the University of Miami, over $2,000 for bounties. One, Shapiro said, was a $1,000 hit on Florida State quarterback Chris Rix in 2002 that led to a personal foul penalty. Shapiro claimed he offered $5,000 to any Miami player who knocked Rix out of the game.

Shapiro is a cad, liar and criminal. Believe him at your own peril, but in the Yahoo story, he offers explicit details, and comes off as believable (and bitter). There was also this from Rix himself.

"I do remember a few late hits -- some of them were called, some of them weren't," Rix told Larry Brown Sports. "I remember one specifically in the 2003 BCS Orange Bowl game, after I had thrown a pass [Vilma] came in and led with his hand. He got it inside my facemask and gave me a black eye. I don't remember that being called as a late hit. Other ones were at the bottom of piles, yelling expletives at you and trying to get their hands in your facemask -- get your eye. I'm not the first football player that's happened to and I'm not the last. That happens a lot in those rivalry games.

"If I saw [Vilma], I really don't know what I'd say. I'd say 'I know you got offered $5,000 to take me out of the game. While you got a lot of good hits on me, you notice you never took me out of the game -- I always finished. So I'm sorry you never got the full $5,000 check for taking me out of the game.'"

The ledger. The tape. The booster. None of this is that exact bull's-eye, but there sure is a great deal of recent smoke, and anyone who believes otherwise, especially the Saints, isn't paying attention.

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