Those defending the New Orleans Saints throughout the NFL's investigation of the team's bounty program have demanded to be shown the evidence and proof that the team and its players did something wrong. If this weekend's news of there being a bounty ledger is true, then the league certainly handled the case appropriately.
A source has told the Associated Press (via Yahoo!) that during its investigation, the league gathered documents including a ledger that detailed payments to players for plays like "cart-offs" and "whacks." On Friday the source confirmed that the ledger does exist. Another source confirmed that documents detailing payments for certain plays, but wasn't sure if anything actually listed payment for a bounty placed on an opponent.
While the league has yet to publicly release the details of its investigation into the program, if a ledger detailing payments exists, that would be the smoking gun so many have been waiting to see. And if it is as detailed as it sounds, then the league's punishment of New Orleans' players and staffers was certainly appropriate.
As a result of the bounty investigation, the NFL suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for a year, while former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who ran the program) has been suspended indefinitely. In addition to that, assistant coach (and interim head coach) Joe Vitt will miss the season's first six games, and general manager Mickey Loomis will miss the first eight games of the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, New Orleans' players did not escape unscathed. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been banned for a year, while defensive end Will Smith will miss four games. Former Saints Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Scott Fujita (three games) will also miss time.
A ledger detailing payments to players would be the incriminating evidence the Saints and their fans have been crying for since this investigation became public knowledge. Whether or not the book is ever made public is still uncertain, but the confirmation of its existence by sources is probably enough.
The NFL's suspensions of New Orleans' players and staff were certainly harsh, but as more and more evidence becomes public, it seems like the league and commissioner Roger Goodell did the right thing.
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