Saints Bounty Ledger: A Reboot

Yesterday, SF-KS brought us the breaking news from Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports that sources are reporting that the NFL has the actual evidence Saints and NFL fans have been calling for (in the form of a ledger), documenting the existence of the Saints bounty program.

Thanks so much for doing that, SFKS.

In a sad turn of events, the discussion thread in that Fanshot devolved into a cesspool of personal attacks and name-calling, and the Fanshot has since been deleted (I'm sorry that had to happen, SFKS).

With the dawn of a new day, we have before us an opportunity to start fresh and engage in reasoned, intelligent discourse over this new development that focuses solely on the merits of the report, and what it means to the Saints and the whole bounty investigation/sanctions situation. I invite one and all to participate,

Join me after the jump, but if you can't bring your manners and civility, don't even bother entering the discussion. Regardless of how you feel or what you believe about an individual member, or what someone posts, keep your debate and diction focused on the information presented in the report or in the individual post, and what it means to the ongoing bounty saga.

Here's Cole's big lead:

The NFL has a copy of a "ledger" that was kept detailing weekly earnings for players in the New Orleans Saints bounty system, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The ledger, which shows both money earned for "cart-offs" and "whacks" and deducted for "mental errors," also points to the fact that players were told on a week-by-week basis of their performance.

BOOM. There it is. The veritable smoking gun, Ark of the Covenant, or scarlet letter, or telltale heart, or Cask of Amontillado, whatever you want to call it.

Yesterday, some argued that this is the evidence we've been waiting to see. Others want to see it first, and compare it with what actually happened on the field before calling it the clincher.

What does this ledger show us?

"The players clearly knew what was going each week with the payments," a source told Yahoo! Sports. In fact, multiple sources admitted that Saints defensive players would regularly encourage teammates to put money earned from the bounty system back into the pool. It's unclear if that was to increase the potential winnings or eventually use the money for some other purpose.

Regardless of whether the money was paid out or not, the mere implication of a cash payment for such plays is considered a violation of league rules.

Later, Cole continues with this:

The ledger could prove to be extremely damning to the players' cause. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in federal court in Louisiana, claiming he never paid nor received money for bounties.

Vilma's claim may ultimately be a matter of semantics.

While the ledger doesn't necessarily prove that there was an actual transaction, it is potentially strong evidence that such a system existed. In the ledger, payments of $1,000 for cart-offs (a hit that resulted in a player being helped off the field), $400 for whacks (hard hits) and $100 deductions for mental errors were kept track of for each player.

Two specific entries for the 2009 season were shown during one meeting. In a game against the New York Giants on Oct. 18, there was a $1,000 bounty awarded for one cart-off. In a game against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2009, there were three $1,000 awards. (A source initially said the three $1,000 awards were given in Buffalo on Sept. 27, 2009, but that source and another source later corrected that report.)

There was also a notation that after one game an opposing player who had been carted off was placed on injured reserve. The notation of the player on IR included an exclamation mark.

And just who has seen this ledger?

According to sources, the NFL showed portions of the ledger during meetings with some of those who have been investigated in the scandal.

The NFLPA says they haven't actually seen it.

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said via text message that the league "made mention" of the ledger in a meeting with the union in April, but that the NFLPA had not seen the ledger yet.

As a result, Atallah called into question the use of the ledger as "evidence."

"I guess it either qualifies as evidence, which means fair due process was violated because [the] players didn't get to see it before they were punished or it is not hard evidence because they didn't get to see it and cross examine the validity of that piece of evidence," Atallah wrote.

All this made for much action to keep up with in the past couple of days. On Thursday, Vilma spoke with Ian Rappaport about not seeing the bounty evidence, and Pamphilon posted a lengthy piece elaborating on the heretofore unknown involvement of Drew Brees and Scott Fujita in his release of the Gregg Williams audiotape. And on Friday, as CSC was on both of these stories: Pamphilon and Vilma, Cole's piece popped up. Good grief!!

* * *

So, folks, let's try it again. But this time leave all the personal attacks, name calling, and animosity towards others at the door. Focus on the merits (or skepticism-fueled nonmerits) of the information presented and what it means to the bounty situation. Thank you.

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