New Orleans Saints  

 

Attorney for Saints' Joe Vitt says Gregg Williams went 'rogue'

NEW YORK -- The lawyer for suspended New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Vitt called former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a "rogue coach" Thursday for his role in the team's "bounty" program.

Vitt received a six-game suspension from the NFL for his involvement in the scandal, which also resulted in head coach Sean Payton being banned for the season and general manager Mickey Loomis being suspended for eight games. The Saints were fined $500,000 and docked second-round picks in the next two drafts.

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Following their 90-minute appeal hearing with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday at NFL headquarters, David Cornwell, Vitt's attorney, and the coach were asked about a Yahoo! Sports report in which Williams was recorded telling players to target San Francisco 49ers players for injury the night before their divisional playoff game.

Cornwell said that was an example -- one of several -- of Williams going rogue. Cornwell also said Payton and Loomis warned Williams the NFL had notified the team one week earlier that it had re-opened an investigation into an alleged bounty scheme, but Williams ignored their requests to end the program.

Payton said at last week's NFL Annual Meeting that he regretted being so focused on offense and not fully monitoring the defense, which Williams controlled.

"As the head coach, anything that happens within the framework of your team and your program, you're responsible for, and that's a lesson I've learned," Payton said last week. "It's one that it is easy to get carried away on a certain side of the ball offensively or defensively, and that's something I regret.

"Again, the first awareness specifically was after the '09-10 season, and that's when the league came in initially and visited with a few people."

Cornwell said Thursday that Williams was fired by the Saints. While that could be viewed as correct semantically, Williams' contract technically expired and wasn't renewed. He then was hired as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator -- a role in which he no longer can serve because of his indefinite suspension from the NFL.

Payton, Loomis and Vitt hoped to have their punishments reduced or dismissed upon appeal, but several people said they expect that to be unlikely unless they presented compelling new evidence. Goodell could rule as soon as Friday but more likely next week, according to sources.

The 22 to 27 players cited in the scandal have yet to be disciplined. Goodell is expected to hand down that punishment before the NFL draft, which starts April 26.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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