NEW ORLEANS -- The attorney for suspended New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma says a ledger of under-the-table cash bonuses and fines for Saints players shows no proof of bounties placed on targeted opponents.
Lawyer Peter Ginsberg said the leaking of the ledger to the media shows how "misguided and irresponsible" NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been in handling the bounty investigation of the Saints.
People familiar with the ledger told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday that the document indicates payments of $1,000 for plays called "cart-offs" and $400 for "whacks," as well as $100 fines for mental errors.
Ginsberg asserted that the commissioner interviewed the person who kept the ledger, and knows "the 'whacks' and 'cart-offs,' though regrettably named, were descriptions of good, clean, legal plays, and that any dirty or penalized play resulted in fines."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he had no comment on the latest statement by Ginsberg, who is representing Vilma both in the player's appeal of his season-long suspension as well as in a defamation lawsuit against Goodell. The defamation lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans and Goodell has until July 5 to respond to it.
The NFL has suspended four players -- all of them either current or former Saints -- in connection with the bounty probe. Vilma was suspended for all of the 2012 season, Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove was suspended eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith was suspended four games, and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita three. All four players have appealed their suspensions.
Ginsberg's statement about the ledger is the latest of several instances in which players or their representatives have debated the significance of evidence gathered by the league in the bounty probe that the league said ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran from 2009 to 2011.
In May, Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL, said a signed declaration by Hargrove confirmed the existence of a bounty program, and that Hargrove was instructed to lie about it -- and did lie about it -- when first questioned by league investigators. But Hargrove later said the NFL mischaracterized his statement, which the AP also obtained. The declaration does not go into specifics about what Hargrove knew or did not know about a bounty program in New Orleans, and it does not explicitly say he lied.
The NFL has not discussed the ledger in any of its official reports or public comments, but the document's existence appears to support the NFL's contention that the Saints operated an improper pay-for-performance program.