When former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated all player discipline in the Saints’ bounty case, we thought it was all but over. Which it is, to some extent, at least in terms of suspensions and fines and the like. But back in May, Jonathan Vilma sued Roger Goodell for defamation, alleging that Goodell made false statements that irreparably damaged Vilma’s reputation.
That defamation suit is still going on, and much of it revolves around Vilma allegedly placing a bounty on Kurt Warner in the 2009 playoffs – something Vilma to this day denies completely. Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, now claims in a new court filing that Goodell recklessly cited multiple witnesses that could verify the accusations when there was actually only one witness, former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo, who was fired following the Super Bowl in 2009. Therefore, Ginsberg’s next step was to discredit Cerullo and prove the league’s knowledge (or, at the very least, suspicion) of his unreliability, proving the allegations false and Roger Goodell a dictator simply out to get Vilma.
When Cerullo was fired back in 2009, he was understandably pissed off at the organization, though sources claimed it went a bit further than sour grapes because he was “a little unstable and erratic at times.” Cerullo, meanwhile, in a letter to Paul Tagliabue, claims he’s been villified, and that all the accusations made against him are false (He allegedly vowed revenge on the team, and specifically interim head coach Joe Vitt, for the dismissal).
But as ProFootballTalk now reports, part of this new Vilma defamation suit filing, in an effort to undermine the credibility of Goodell’s only witness as to therefore prove his complete negligence in the bounty case and subsequent defamation of Vilma, claims that Sean Payton had to seek police protection from the possibly crazy Cerullo:
“Here’s the kicker from Ginsberg: “The Saints were so concerned about Cerullo’s stability, as Goodell also knew, that, when Cerullo was terminated, Saints head coach Sean Payton also was forced to obtain police protection at his house for fear that Cerullo would seek some type of retribution.” (Cerullo has denied that he held a grudge against the team.)”
Whether or not this is actually the case remains to be seen. Ginsberg undoubtedly has an agenda – Vilma’s agenda – to completely discredit Cerullo and prove the league knew about his instability, thus showing that Goodell steamrolled Vilma with a single witness that he knew was unreliable. So whether or not we can take him at his word, at this point, is unknown. Still, it’s hard to believe that he would simply whip up such a statement out of thin air, one without any trace of factual support.
The entire report over at ProFootballTalk is pretty intriguing, if you have a few moments to thumb through it – though we understand if you’re tired of hearing about a further extension of the Saints’ bounty case.