Joe Vitt, assistant head coach (and this year’s interim head coach) for the New Orleans Saints testified in front of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on December 3, and NOLA.com recently obtained Vitt’s five-hour-plus testimony.
Check out NOLA.com’s extensive look at the transcript here. It’s really long, though, so we’ll give you some highlights. The main takeaway: Vitt is really angry about the way the whole thing was handled. And he disputes many of the previously-reported facts.
He also presented a new, strange detail, alleging that Gregg Williams “once promised rewards to players if they would knock down or take out the knees of assistant coaches from other teams on the sideline when a tackle carried over off the field.”
But Vitt argued that he himself made it clear to players that this was “unacceptable,” and the players knew it was just Williams’ “shtick” and “false bravado.” Vitt pointed out that players didn’t attack the 49ers like Williams told them to “during the infamous 2012 pregame audio tape.”
“If our players went out and performed what came out of Gregg Williams’ mouth, and it went from his lips to their ears, and then it went to the performance, we would have people in jail right now ma’am,” Vitt said to NFL attorney Mary Jo White. “We would have people in jail right now.”
This is pretty easy for your average recreational athlete to understand. Who hasn’t heard a coach say something hyperbolic? Rip their throats out! Make ‘em bleed! Kill those bastards!
Vitt attacked former assistant Mike Cerullo, calling him a “liar” and an “idiot.” Cerullo claimed that Vitt put money into the alleged bounty program himself, but Vitt vehemently denied that.
Vitt acknowledged that the Saints had a “pay-for-performance program,” but wouldn’t admit that the team had a bounty program. Basically, he said that players were rewarded for big, legal hits that ultimately caused injuries, even severe ones.
He also referenced the Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that said according to a study, the Saints ranked 31st in the NFL in injuries caused from 2009-2011…
– Vitt said the Saints did have a pay-for-performance program. Vitt said when he was in Seattle, a similar program was called “dash for cash.” Vitt also said a program occurred like this one in Kansas City as well. Vitt said every team had a pay-for-performance program until the league handed Sean Payton a season-long suspension.
– When asked to elaborate on his claim that every team in the NFL had a pay-for-performance program, Vitt said, “I’ve get a text from Mr. Williams, if we want to see it, that he sent to me back in February, the first time that he was – the second time he was called into the league office, he says to me, 24 teams have reached out to me and asked me to take the hit on this because they all do it. Do you want to see that, Mr. Commissioner?
“Yes,” Tagliabue said.
Vitt read the text: “For your information, I’ve had 20-plus teams reach out to me saying that I must stand firm to take the heat because all teams do this. (Expletive) me.”
Vitt praised Jonathan Vilma’s talent and intelligence, referencing his “photographic memory.”
- Vitt said he never heard Vilma offer money for a player to take Kurt Warner out of the game.
Ginsberg: “And when it comes to Brett Favre, what would you have done if you heard Jonathan or anyone say that they were offering money?”
Vitt: “Sit down and shut up.”
Ginsberg: “Why is that?
Vitt: “Because this is an emotional game played by emotional people. This is a man’s game. And sometimes people say things, and sometimes people do things in a state of such ready preparedness to win a game to have the opportunity to go to a world championship two weeks after that. You play your whole career to be able to play in that game, to get to that show. So I would have been very protective of our players if anyone would have stood up and done something like that. I would have told them to sit down and shut up. You know what, I’ve earned to right to talk to them that way, and they would have listened to me. But I never had to say that.”
– Vitt said Vilma never held up $10,000 in his hands before the Cardinals game, like Cerullo and the NFL counsel claim, to knock out Warner. Vitt also said he’s never seen Vilma with cash ever in any defensive meeting.
Vitt was especially upset that the Saints were singled out for what he alleges is commonplace.
- When asked to elaborate on his claim that every team in the NFL had a pay-for-performance program, Vitt said, “I’ve get a text from Mr. Williams, if we want to see it, that he sent to me back in February, the first time that he was – the second time he was called into the league office, he says to me, 24 teams have reached out to me and asked me to take the hit on this because they all do it. Do you want to see that, Mr. Commissioner?
“Yes,” Tagliabue said.
Vitt read the text: “For your information, I’ve had 20-plus teams reach out to me saying that I must stand firm to take the heat because all teams do this. (Expletive) me…
Seriously, read the whole thing. Especially the end, where Vitt trashes Cerullo’s character, extensively.
“If I took Mike Cerullo, who was sitting right here right now, and Commissioner, asked him to get up on the board and diagram 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players, No. 1, he couldn’t do that,” Vitt said. “He could not draw a pro offense, a slot set. He could not give me a pro set. He could not give me I split, I near, I far backs, and that’s after being in this league for three years…
Vitt: “So I – so what documents am I asking Mike Cerullo to destroy? I don’t understand. What are we, shredding them? Is that what we do, we shred documents? I don’t know what we do. Mike Cerullo – let’s cut to the chase. Mike Cerullo is a liar. Mike Cerullo is wrong.”
Ginsberg: “Did you ever tell him in any way to destroy or get rid of any documents relating to the pay-for-performance program or any other documents?”
Vitt: “Yeah. You know, I felt such strong trust with Mike Cerullo, especially after the last four weeks he missed work, that I could really trust in him, that I could tell him the deep down secrets of my heart, let’s destroy these documents. Mike, just me and you because we’re tight. No. The answer is Cerullo. Cerullo is an idiot.”
This doesn’t change the fact that the average fan would be disturbed by these “pay-for-performance” programs, but it does seem to support the view that the punishment of the Saints was misguided and ignoble.