In a statement given exclusively to NFL.com, the NFL Players Association confirmed Monday that it knew about audio of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams urging players to injure opponents before it became public.
"The NFLPA was aware of the existence of the Gregg Williams audio prior to its release," the statement reads. "We learned of the tape as part of our effort to obtain any and all information related to an alleged pay-to-injure scheme. We had no control of the content and did not make a determination on the method of its release. To date, the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of such a program."
Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, who's now with the Cleveland Browns and is a member of the union's executive committee, provided the NFLPA with the details of Williams' speech and the tape that filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who captured the audio, made accessible to him, sources told ESPN.com.
Citing a union source, ESPN.com also reported that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and union lawyers have broached the possibility of using Williams' speech as a strategy to dissuade NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell from coming down hard on Saints players for their role in the team's "bounty" scandal.
The union's case for Saints players would be, in essence, that game film would reveal they ignored Williams' directive to target 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams, and tight end Vernon Davis for specific injuries.
Pamphilon told Yahoo! Sports that he wants the commissioner "to answer real questions first."
The filmmaker has asked to interview Goodell multiple times, a league source told ESPN.com, but Goodell has denied all requests. The source said that Goodell will not sit for an interview in exchange for the tapes.
Punishment for more than 20 players could be announced this week. Williams is suspended indefinitely, and Goodell has already denied the appeals of coach Sean Payton (2012 season), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games).