The surfacing of audio from Gregg Williams' pregame speech prior to the Saints' playoff game in San Francisco, as first procured by Yahoo! Sports, has severely damaged, if not ended completely, the small chance New Orleans coach Sean Payton had of a successful appeal in New York on Thursday, according to a source close to the situation.
The league isn't commenting on the evidence that it has, but a part of its statement following the punishments indicts all those wielding power on the football side of New Orleans' operation, below the ownership level. That includes Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis, both of whom are appealing to commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.
The NFL's statement read: "Saints owner Tom Benson notified Mr. Loomis in January 2012 prior to the team's participation in the playoffs that the league's investigation had been reopened. Mr. Benson reiterated his position that a bounty program was unacceptable and instructed Mr. Loomis to ensure that if a bounty program existed at the Saints it would stop immediately. By his own admission, Mr. Loomis responded to this direction by making only cursory inquiries of Coaches Payton and Williams. He never issued instructions to end the bounty program to either the coaching staff or the players.
"In January 2012, prior to the Saints' first playoff game of the 2011 season, Coach Payton was advised by Mr. Loomis that the league office had reopened the investigation. Coach Payton made a cursory inquiry but took no action to ensure that any bounty program was discontinued."
The above statement shows that Benson directly instructed Loomis to end the program less than two weeks prior to that game, and that Loomis informed Payton that the investigation had been reopened around that time. Williams is not appealing.
It is not clear whether or not the league was aware of the audio that Yahoo! Sports presented on Thursday morning on its Web site, or any bounties in play during the 49ers game.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.