NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday asking that the league's investigation into the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" program be "redone thoroughly and transparently" because of an abundance of concerns regarding the information collected and how it was interpreted.
Smith also stated that "the people who presented the information from the NFL's investigation to you egregiously failed you because they did not present a full and complete account of the entirety of the testimony and information they received."
The NFL did not specifically respond to Smith's letter when asked, but referred to comments made by lead counsel Jeff Pash during an interview with ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. Of note, Pash said the league would listen to Smith's concerns and that "we listen to what he has to say and what his thinking is with great respect."
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Pash added that the players could have benefited had Smith attended Monday's appeals hearings.
The NFL said it would give players and their representatives to the end of the day Friday -- and longer, if needed -- to express their concerns. Smith's letter seems to fall under those parameters, and no ruling from Goodell regarding player suspensions is expected before the weekend, according to a league source.
Appealing their suspension, according to the collective bargaining agreement, is the main recourse for the players. However, the players also could be poised to challenge this investigation and Goodell's authority to rule against the players in court, according to sources familiar with the players.
Should any prospective cases get to court, lawyers for the players also might be able to gain access to evidence and witnesses that they haven't had access to previously.
The NFL has stood by all facets of its investigation and evidence for months in suspending four players, head coach Sean Payton (one year), assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games), former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (indefinitely) and general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games).
The NFLPA is only questioning the evidence regarding players Scott Fujita (three games), now with the Cleveland Browns, Anthony Hargrove (eight games), now with the Green Bay Packers, and Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games). Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the upcoming season, is being represented by Peter Ginsberg, not by NFLPA attorneys.
In his letter to Goodell, Vilma is not mentioned by Smith.
Smith and the NFLPA were invited to be a part of the NFL's investigation, according to a league source, but the union declined and conducted its own investigation. The NFL said the NFLPA has not shared information it had gathered -- a criticism the NFLPA leveled about the NFL until the league had to provide the union with the evidence last week, per labor agreement rules.
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Since the appeals hearings, Hargrove has vehemently contested video evidence that the league said showed him asking former teammate Bobby McCray to "give me my money" after Vitt told players in a sideline huddle that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre wouldn't be returning to the 2009 NFC Championship Game because of an injury. The NFL said the video proves there was a bounty placed on Favre.
Vitt also challenged the NFL's evidence that he pledged $5,000 to a bounty pool to knock Favre out of the game. The NFL admitted that it didn't have corroborating evidence to support Vitt's supposed pledge, and that the evidence was not used in its suspension of Vitt. Still, that supposed $5,000 pledge by Vitt appeared on a typed ledger used by the NFL as part of evidence against players.