New Orleans Saints  

 

NFLPA says it wants concrete evidence against Saints players

The NFL Players Association hopes to not only discover concrete evidence that New Orleans Saints players were directly tied to bounties, as the league has found, but also to get a basis to determine if punishments meted out are specific to allegations, union spokesman George Atallah said Monday.

The NFLPA will meet with the NFL on Monday -- and maybe longer -- to pour over evidence the NFL has offered to share regarding its lengthy investigation into the scandal that has led to lengthy suspension, fines and lost draft picks.

The 22 to 27 players cited in the scandal that occurred between 2009 and the 2011 seasons haven't been disciplined because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would like recommendations from the NFLPA, which very well might not happen, according to Atallah.

Goodell, by the league's collectively bargained by-laws, does not have to seek counsel from the NFLPA before issuing discipline against players.

The NFLPA might not recommend discipline because there is suspicion that it might not carry any weight in Goodell's rulings. If players appeal, any NFLPA recommendations for discipline also could work against them.

In a statement released to the NFLPA and obtained by NFL Network's Albert Breer, union executive director DeMaurice Smith said his role is not to give recommendations for punishment without gathering information and consulting with players.

"Our duty is to view and understand the evidence and to ensure it is substantiated and concrete," Smith said in the statement. "We also have an obligation to ensure that our players have fair due process. It is not our duty to give recommendations for discipline in a vacuum without information or without consultation with our players. It seems as if this entire matter has played out primarily in public, with regard for the fairness of the process an afterthought.

"Our team will meet with the NFL today, ask hard questions and will expect to see all documents and direct evidence of a pay-to-injure scheme," Smith added. "That is what a fair process dictates. I will get a full briefing by our team and after that, the next step will be to consult with players about what was learned. Only then will we confer with the NFL."

Said Atallah: "We want to get some sort of look at concrete evidence of player involvement and levels of player involvement. That is why looking at the evidence is important to us. At least there is a correlation to where the punishment fits the crime, if you will."

Saints coach Sean Payton is appealing his season-long suspension, Loomis his eight-game suspension, assistant head coach Joe Vitt his six-game suspension and the team its $500,000 fine and loss of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. Those appeals will be heard -- and likely ruled upon this week.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, doesn't plan to appeal his punishment. The NFLPA has no jurisdiction over non-players.

The meeting with the NFL and NFLPA to review evidence stems from the league re-iterating Friday an offer that has stood for weeks for the union to look at the league's gatherings. The NFL has shared two summaries with the NFLPA, but the union has sought more information, such as video, email or other evidence to corroborate the current charges.

Besides interviewing Saints players Drew Brees and Will Smith, as well as former Saints and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, at the recent NFLPA meetings, the union has interviewed numerous players who were with New Orleans during the alleged timeframe of the charges, Atallah said.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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